SULAIMANI (ESTA) — The European Union needs to block flights from the Middle East to Belarus, Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday, to stem the flow of migrants trying to enter the EU’s eastern external border.
He made the comments during a news conference after a meeting with European Council head Charles Michel in Warsaw, according to Reuters.
Thousands of people including Kurds have converged on the border this week, where razor wire fences and Polish soldiers have repeatedly blocked their entry. Some of the migrants have used logs, spades and other implements to try to break through.
Video from the border showed young children and babies among the people stuck there.
The bloc’s 27 ambassadors are set to agree on Wednesday that the growing numbers of migrants flying to Belarus to reach the EU border amount to “hybrid warfare” by President Alexander Lukashenko – a legal basis for new sanctions.
The EU accuses Belarus of encouraging the migrants – from Iraq including Kurdistan Region, Afghanistan and Africa – to try to illegally cross the frontier in revenge for earlier sanctions imposed on Minsk over human rights abuses.
Lukashenko has denied using the migrants as weapons and on Wednesday won a fresh show of support from his most powerful ally, Russia, which blamed the EU for the crisis and sent two strategic bombers to patrol Belarusian airspace.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, urging Moscow to put pressure on Belarus over the situation at the border, a German government spokesperson said. Putin’s office said he suggested to Merkel that EU members discuss the crisis directly with Minsk.
The Polish border guards service reported 599 illegal border crossing attempts on Tuesday, with 9 people detained and 48 sent back. Blaszczak said the force of Polish soldiers stationed at the border had been strengthened to 15,000 from 12,000.
After midnight, two groups of migrants were turned back. One that was around 200 people near the town of Bialowieza and another of around two dozen was turned back near Dubicze Cerkiewne, a spokeswoman told Reuters.
Neighbouring EU state Lithuania, which followed in Poland’s footsteps by imposing a state of emergency at its border on Tuesday, reported 281 migrants were turned back that day, the highest figure since August when such pushbacks began.