Iraqi Infant Buried Without His Parents Present Latest Death in Poland-Belarus Standoff

An unborn Iraqi baby is the latest life claimed by the migrant crisis at the Poland-Belarus border.

Aleksander Ali Bazarewicz, a Polish imam, recited prayers Tuesday over the infant's tiny white casket. According to the Associated Press, the mother miscarried and is hospitalized in serious condition, and the father was at the refugee center and did not attend the funeral.

Bazarewicz also led prayers nine days ago for the first victim of the migration to be buried in the same cemetery, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee.

"We thought this would only happen once but now this sector gets bigger and bigger," he told the AP.

The baby, along with three others, are now buried at Poland's largest Muslim cemetery in Bohoniki, which belongs to a community of Tartars.

There is no exact death toll in the weeks since migrants gathered in large numbers at Belarus' borders with European Union countries, a situation the EU said was orchestrated by the Belarusian government.

The Polish Border Guard has reported about 10 deaths since September, though humanitarian groups and Polish media have reported more.

Bazarewicz told the AP that while he doesn't know much about the family, he believes it's his duty as a Muslim to ensure the baby and all victims of the crisis be buried with the proper religious rites. In Islam, a fetus older than four months is considered a human and buried as one.

"These people have left their countries, not to travel around or see beautiful places, though Poland is beautiful, but to find a better life," Bazarewicz said. "They were manipulated and they've suffered—which is not their fault."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Poland, migrant crisis, funeral, Iraqi child
An unborn child is the latest life claimed as thousands of migrants from the Middle East have sought to enter the European Union but found their path cut off by a military build-up and fast approaching winter in the forests of Poland and Belarus. Above, a Polish imam, left, and two other members of a Muslim community bury the tiny white casket of an unborn Iraqi boy, in Bohoniki, Poland, on November 23. Czarek Sokolowski/AP Photo

The EU considers the migration "hybrid warfare" waged by the authoritarian government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Poland has ordered a state of emergency along its border to stop migrants from coming through, and to keep family—or smugglers—from approaching the border to facilitate their travel further west. Most aim to reach Germany or elsewhere in Western Europe, in some cases to be reunited with relatives.

As Poland has built up its military presence in the area, many migrants have become trapped in the forest, pushed back and forth between Belarusian and Polish forces.

There also have been migrant deaths on the Belarusian side, with bodies returned to Iraq for burial, but the Minsk authorities haven't reported how many.

A man who appeared to be a migrant from Africa was buried Monday in the Catholic cemetery of Sokolka, not far from the Muslim cemetery in Bohoniki, because a Bible was found next to his body. But since there was no certainty that he was Christian, the local priest didn't preside and all those attending the burial were journalists.

Polish media have also reported the death of a 24-year-old Syrian Christian man whom they identified as Issa Jerjos.

Bazarewicz led the rites for a family he had never met, admitting he knew little more than the mother miscarried in her 27th week of pregnancy and that the family had five children. He called in two Muslims, both Chechen immigrants, to assist with the funeral, attended otherwise only by about three dozen journalists.

The lace-trimmed casket of the unborn infant—given the name Halikari Dhaker and whose date of death is November 14—was so small it was carried to the grave by a single man before it was lowered with ropes.

unborn baby, burial, Muslim
Four people who lost their lives to the migrant crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border are buried in Poland's largest Muslim cemetery. Here, two members of a Muslim community bury the tiny white casket of an unborn Iraqi boy, in Bohoniki, Poland, on November 23. Czarek Sokolowski/AP Photo