Poland extends migrant crisis border restrictions

  |  Wednesday, December 1st, 2021 |  12:38 pm

Poland on Tuesday extended emergency measures restricting access to its border with Belarus which is at the centre of a migrant crisis the West blames on Minsk.

The interior ministry announced the extension of a controversial state of emergency that bars all non-residents — including journalists and NGOs — from the border area where thousands of mainly Middle Eastern migrants have been blocked from entering the European Union.

The West has accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime of orchestrating the crisis and posing a so-called hybrid threat to the EU, which Minsk denies.

Poland’s conservative-controlled parliament on Tuesday rejected Senate amendments allowing journalists to travel to the border and President Andrzej Duda signed new measures allowing the interior minister to ban access to parts of the border area depending on the situation.

Under Polish law, a state of emergency can last three months at most. The current measures started in September and had been due to end at midnight.

The Polish opposition and human rights organisations say the emergency measures give the interior ministry too much power and run against the constitution.

In response to the influx of migrants, Poland built a barbed wire fence and massed thousands of soldiers along its 400-kilometre (249-mile) border with Belarus, leaving the migrants stranded in camps.

Polish media estimate that at least 12 people have died on both sides of the border.

Human Rights Watch this week said Poland shared responsibility for migrants’ “acute suffering” in the border area and accused Warsaw and Minsk of “serious human rights violations”.