(Warsaw) Poland announced Thursday it had completed construction of a steel wall along its border with Belarus designed to stop migrants from crossing it, accusing Minsk of allowing their flow in order to “destabilize” the region.
Posted at 11:20am
Since last summer, thousands of migrants and refugees, mainly from the Middle East, have crossed or attempted to cross this border.
The West has accused the Belarusian regime of orchestrating this influx with its Russian ally as part of a “hybrid” attack, which Minsk denies.
In response, Poland established a restricted zone for non-residents, including aid workers and the media, along this border.
It dispatched thousands of soldiers and police there, initiated the construction of the barrier and passed a law authorizing the refoulement of migrants to Belarus, a practice condemned by international organizations and the judiciary.
“The barrier we erected separates us from the dark dictatorship (of Belarusian leader Alexander) Lukashenko,” Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski told the press.
Belarus was “partly responsible for Russia’s aggression against Ukraine,” he emphasized before the border town of Kuznica was cordoned off.
The 5.5 meter high barrier stretches 186 kilometers and its cost is estimated at 350 million euros.
At least a dozen people died on the Polish-Belarusian border, where migrants and refugees, many fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East, faced grueling and freezing winter conditions.
On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) condemned Poland in two separate cases of turning back Chechen asylum seekers at the border with Belarus.
The court ruled in particular in favor of a family of seven Russians from Chechnya, including four minor children, who had reported 16 times at the Belarus-Poland border.
Polish border guards rejected their asylum applications and sent them back to Belarus “at the risk of deportation and ill-treatment in Chechnya,” writes the ECtHR.
The applicants had stressed the “degrading” nature of the treatment by the Polish authorities and recalled the European Convention on Human Rights prohibiting the collective expulsion of aliens.
Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, however, Poland has opened its borders to Ukrainian refugees.