Lukashenko Tells Germany to Take Nearly 2K Migrants Stuck in Belarus After Poland Crackdown

Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko told Germany to take nearly 2,000 migrants who are still at the Belarus-Poland border Monday after Poland blocked a surge of migrants from passing through, the Associated Press reported.

Lukashenko urged Germany to accommodate the thousands of migrants and criticized EU officials for refusing to negotiate an end to the standoff between the two countries.

"We must demand that the Germans take them," Lukashenko said at a meeting with officials.

Poland has received support from the EU, NATO and the U.S. for pushing the migrants back towards Belarus, saying it's protecting all of Europe.

The EU accused Lukashenko's government of orchestrating the increase in migrant crossing as a "hybrid attack" in retaliation for the bloc's sanctions over the crackdown by Belarusian authorities on domestic protests. Belarus denies the charge.

Poland's Border Guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska said Monday there were over 300 attempts by migrants Sunday to bypass the razor-wire border fence into the EU. Most were stopped while about 60 people who got through were sent back, she said.

In one attempt, there was a group of around 150 "aggressive foreigners," who tried to cross the border. They were helped by Belarus forces who used laser and electric torch lights to blind Polish border guards, Michalska said.

Michalska said that Poland is planning return flights for hundreds of Iraqi migrants currently staying in the country's guarded centers for foreigners.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, European Union, Migrants
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko attends a meeting in Minsk, Belarus on November 22, 2021. Lukashenko chafed at the European Union for its refusal to hold talks on the influx of migrants on the country's border with Poland. Nikolay Petrov/BelTA Pool Photo/AP Photo

Out of about 1,900 migrants staying in the centers, more than 1,200 are Iraqis. About 700 of them applied for international protection and are waiting for a decision whether they will be able to stay in the EU, said Michalska. Poland would like to fly the others back.

Michalska said Poland is currently seeking permission from Baghdad to fly back the first group of some 80 Iraqis on a chartered flight in the coming days. Around 20 of them have received deportation decisions.

"We are working with the Iraqi side that needs to agree to receive its citizens back," Michalska said.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Sunday that Poland was ready to finance return flights for migrants, and the European border agency Frontex has said it was working with Poland on such flights.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Monday again denounced the "cynical misuse of migrants" by Lukashenko's government.

A few migrants have died in the damp forests straddling the border. Others have abandoned hopes of reaching Europe and were flown back to their home countries this week.

Humanitarian organizations and Poland's influential Roman Catholic Church have been pressing to be allowed to bring aid to the stranded migrants, and nongovernmental organizations in Poland have organized charity collections.

Belarusian-Polish Border, Migrants, Bruzgi
Migrants stay in the transport and logistics center near the Bruzgi border point on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region on November 19, 2021. Around 2,000 migrants, who had been camped out in freezing conditions at Belarus's border with Poland, spent the night in a logistics center after their camp was cleared by border guards, state news agency Belta said on November 19. Maxim GUCHEK / BELTA / AFP/Getty Images