Migrants Removed From Belarus Border Camp by Bus, Deescalating Tensions With Poland

In a tense standoff between Belarus and Poland, Belarusian officials Wednesday bussed migrants away from a makeshift camp at the border, offering the potential for possible de-escalation, the Associated Press reported.

A large group of people from the Middle East who were hoping to enter Europe have been stuck at a border crossing with Poland since November 8.

Tensions escalated on Tuesday when Polish forces used water cannons and teas gas against migrants throwing stones. Poland accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of giving smoke grenades and other weapons to people trying to cross the border.

Polish authorities registered 161 attempts to cross the border illegally. But on Wednesday authorities said the situation had calmed down. The large migrant camp by the crossing is now closed and has fewer people.

Most migrants are fleeing their home countries because of conflict or despair and hope to reach Germany or other western European countries.

"The campsite near Kuznica is slowly emptying," Maciej Wasik, the Polish deputy interior minister said.

Poland's border Guard posted a video on Twitter showing Belarus forces directing migrants with bags and backpacks away from the border.

Border Guard spokeswoman, Anna Michalska, said some of the migrants were seen taking wooden logs with them, raising questions about whether they might be moved to another spot along the border.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Poland, Migrants, Belarus, Border Crossing
Migrants settle for the night in the logistics center in the checkpoint "Kuznitsa" at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, on November 16. Some of the migrants have children with them at the border in their desperate bid to reach the EU. Maxim Guchek/BelTA/AP Photo

It was not clear where the migrants were being taken, and the information provided by officials is hard to verify due to restrictions journalists face in working on both sides of the border. A state of emergency in Poland is keeping journalists, human rights workers and others away from the border along a zone that is 3 kilometers (2 miles) deep.

The Belarusian state news agency Belta reported that migrants were being given shelter inside a logistics center at the border, giving them the chance after many days to sleep indoors rather than in tents outdoors.

Iraq has been appealing for its citizens to fly home, telling them the way into the EU is closed. The first flights are scheduled for Thursday.

The West has accused Lukashenko of using the migrants as pawns to destabilize the 27-nation bloc in retaliation for its sanctions on his authoritarian regime. Belarus denies orchestrating the crisis.

Meanwhile, a Polish press organization said that people in Polish army uniforms handcuffed and beat three photojournalists who were working on Polish territory, but outside the no-entry emergency zone, on Tuesday.

Press Club Polska posted photos of bruises that the handcuffs left on the wrists of two of the photojournalists.

Poland's Defense Ministry denied that violence was used but said the troops have a right to intervene when they deem it necessary at a time of high tension in the area. It said the photojournalists were masked and had no signs indicating they were media representatives.

Poland, Migrants, Belarus, Border Crossing
Belarusian officials bussed migrants away from a makeshift camp at the border on Wednesday. Migrants in the logistics center in the checkpoint "Kuznitsa" at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, on November 16. Maxim Guchek/BelTA/AP Photo