4-Year-Old Iraqi Girl Reportedly Missing Near Belarus Border as Another Migrant Found Dead

A 4-year-old girl from Iraq is believed to have gone missing in subfreezing weather near Poland's border with Belarus, according to a humanitarian group. Her reported disappearance came one day after another migrant was found dead near the border, the latest casualty in a migrant crisis that goes hand in hand with tensions between the European Union and Belarus.

The Border Group, a refugee and human rights organization, believes that the young girl was separated from her parents and went missing on the Polish side of the border after Polish Border Guard officers pushed her parents back into Belarus. Poland's Border Guard agency denied the allegations and claimed that it had not detained any families.

It added that it had conducted both land and air searches to try to find the child after learning the information provided to the nation's human rights commissioner by activists.

Belarus' border with Poland is also its border with the EU. Migrants and refugees have been gathering at the border and attempting to cross into the bloc since the summer, triggering a standoff between the travelers and Poland's security forces.

The EU has accused Belarus of funneling the migrants toward the border to destabilize the EU in retaliation for imposing sanctions against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's government, though he has denied the allegations.

Belarus Migrant Crisis
A 4-year-old girl from Iraq is believed to have gone missing in subfreezing weather near Poland's border with Belarus, according to a humanitarian group. Above, migrants receive food outside the transport and logistics center near the Bruzgi border point on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region on November 22, 2021. Andrei Pokumeiko/BELTA/AFP via Getty Images

Many people from the Middle East, among them Kurds from Iraq, have seized on what appeared to be an easy way to a better life in Western Europe, only to find their way blocked and endure great suffering trapped in the border's forests and bogs.

The scale of migration is much smaller now than several weeks ago after airlines stopped flights from many Mideast points to Minsk, the capital of Belarus. Yet some people are still on the Belarus side of the border, attempting to enter Poland.

Police said that officers discovered a body in a forest near the village of Olchówka on Tuesday.

"Next to the body was a backpack and a Nigerian passport," police said on Twitter.

The death raises to over 15 the number of people who have died trying to enter Poland from Belarus. Human rights activists believe the number is likely higher given the people that volunteers have encountered in the forest.

Since early September, Poland's border zone has been off-limits to reporters and human rights workers, first due to a three-month state of emergency and now under new legislation that limits the rights of non-residents to enter the border area. Belarus also restricts the work of independent journalists.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Belarus Migrants
Migrants and refugees have been gathering at the Belarus-Poland border and attempting to cross into the EU since the summer, triggering a standoff between the travelers and Poland's security forces. Above, migrants stay in the transport and logistics center near the Bruzgi border point on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region on November 22, 2021. Andrei Pokumeiko/BELTA/AFP via Getty Images