Poland to Erect Fence Along Belarus Border, Accuses Nation of Using Migrants to 'Destabilize'

As Belarusian migrants pour into neighboring countries to flee their nation's authoritarian crackdown, Poland announced plans to construct a fence along its border with Belarus to turn back migrants, the Associated Press reported.

Polish officials also said Monday that it offered to send humanitarian aid to migrants who have been halted at the border for over two weeks.

Along with Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, Poland has accused Belarus' authoritarian leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, of enacting a hybrid war by sending migrants, many of them from Afghanistan and Iraq, to their borders. The borders these countries share with Belarus are also considered the European Union's external border.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Polish-Belarusian Border
Poland has announced plans to construct a fence along its border with Belarus to turn back migrants. Above, Polish soldiers and border guards stand next to migrants believed to be from Afghanistan in the small village of Usnarz Gorny near Bialystok, northeastern Poland, close to the border with Belarus, on August 20, 2021. WOJTEK RADWANSKI/AFP/Getty Images

All four EU nations believe the surge in migrants is Minsk's revenge for supporting EU sanctions against the autocratic regime in Belarus.

"Using immigrants to destabilize neighboring countries constitutes a clear breach of the international law and qualifies as a hybrid attack against...Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and thus against the entire European Union," they said in a joint statement Monday, urging the United Nations to look into the situation.

In response to the migrants' arrival, the Polish government last week said it had deployed over 900 soldiers to the border with Belarus and was reinforcing the border with 150 kilometers (93 miles) of barbed wire. On Monday, Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said more soldiers would be sent and that a fence 2.5 meters (8 feet) tall would be erected on the border.

The Polish government said last week that 2,100 migrants had tried or managed to enter Poland illegally from Belarus so far in August. Almost 800 of them got into Poland and have been placed in state-run centers.

Meanwhile, political tensions are growing in Poland over some 30 migrants who became stuck on the border with Belarus. A refugee rights group says the group includes people from Afghanistan and some who need medical attention. Poland insists they are on Belarusian territory, but has still faced criticism at home for not allowing the migrants to apply for asylum.

On Monday the Polish Foreign Ministry said it submitted a diplomatic note to Belarus offering to provide food and medicine as well as tents, beds, sleeping bags, blankets and pajamas.

Also Monday, Blaszczak, the defense minister, said he was sending a notification to prosecutors against Wladyslaw Frasyniuk, a prominent anti-communist dissident, for criticizing Polish soldiers deployed to the border. Frasyniuk had said Polish soldiers at the border were not behaving in a humane way, accusing them of acting like a "pack of dogs."

Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski said the situation on the border was testing how the country would react to more serious acts of hybrid warfare.

"The statements and behavior of a significant number of Polish politicians, journalists and NGO activists show that a scenario in which a foreign country carrying out such an attack against Poland will receive support from allies in our country is very real," Jablonski said on Twitter.

He said authorities should use this situation to "better prepare for similar threatening actions in the future."

In Warsaw, about two dozen protesters chained themselves to a fence in front of the Border Guards headquarters and put barbed wire on its gates to protest the behavior of Polish authorities along the border.

Belarus Border Migrants
Poland has announced plans to construct a fence along its border with Belarus to turn back migrants. Above, migrants wait in an area between the borders of Belarus and Poland near the village of Usnarz Gorny, Poland, on August 20, 2021. Michal Kosc/AP Photo