Poland accused Belarus on Friday of trucking tons of of migrants again to the border and pushing them to aim to cross illegally, solely hours after clearing camps at a frontier that has develop into the main target of an escalating East-West disaster.
The accusation by Poland suggests the disaster has not been resolved by an obvious change of tack by Minsk, which on Thursday had cleared the primary camps by the border and allowed the primary repatriation flight to Iraq in months.
European governments accuse Belarus of flying in 1000’s of individuals from the Center East and pushing them to aim illegally to cross the EU border, the place a number of individuals have died within the freezing woods. Belarus denies fomenting the disaster.
Polish Border Guard spokesperson Anna Michalska stated that by Thursday night, simply hours after clearing the camps, Belarus authorities have been already trucking tons of again and forcing them to attempt to cross in darkness.
"(The Belarusians) have been bringing extra migrants to the place the place there was a compelled try to cross," Michalska stated. "Firstly there have been 100 individuals, however then the Belarusian facet introduced extra individuals in vans. Then there have been 500 individuals."
When the migrants tried to cross the border, Belarusian troops blinded Polish guards with lasers, she advised a information convention. Some migrants had thrown logs and 4 guards sustained minor accidents.
Entry to the border on the Polish facet is restricted by a state of emergency, making it troublesome to confirm her account.
In an interview with the BBC, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko repeated denials that he had orchestrated the disaster however, requested if Belarus was serving to migrants attempt to cross into Poland he stated: "I believe that's completely doable. We're Slavs. We’ve hearts. Our troops know the migrants are going to Germany."
"Possibly somebody helped them. I gained't even look into this," he added.
The migrants from the camp on the Belarus facet have been taken on Thursday to an enormous, crowded warehouse, and journalists have been permitted to movie them. Youngsters ran about on Friday morning, and males performed playing cards whereas one dandled a toddler on his lap.
In the meantime in a hospital in Bielsk Podlaski on the Polish facet, two migrants who had been caught after crossing got remedy, solely to be taken away by Polish border guards.
Earlier than he was taken away, Mansour Nassar, 42, a father of six from Aleppo who had travelled to Belarus from Lebanon, described his ordeal throughout 5 days within the forest.
"The Belarusian military advised us: 'In case you come again, we’ll kill you'" he stated, in tears in his hospital mattress. "We drank from ponds… Our persons are all the time oppressed."
Kassam Shahadah, a Syrian refugee physician dwelling in Poland who helps out in one other hospital, stated sufferers have been scared of being forcibly returned to Belarus.
"What they’ve seen, what they’ve lived by means of on that facet is a nightmare for them."
Human rights teams say Poland has exacerbated the struggling by sending again those that attempt to cross. Poland says that is essential to cease extra individuals from coming.
"I’ve personally listened to the appalling accounts of utmost affected by determined individuals – amongst whom many households, youngsters and aged – who spent weeks and even months in squalid and excessive circumstances within the chilly and moist woods resulting from these pushbacks," Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović stated after a four-day mission to Poland.
"I’ve witnessed clear indicators of their painful ordeal: wounds, frostbite, publicity to excessive chilly, exhaustion and stress," she stated. "I’ve little question that returning any of those individuals to the border will result in extra excessive human struggling and extra deaths."
The Polish border guards have recorded seven deaths on the border. Rights teams say greater than ten individuals have died.
"Cynical and inhumane"
Europeans have shunned Lukashenko since a disputed election final yr, however reached out cautiously this week, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel chatting with Lukashenko twice by cellphone.
However on Thursday the European Fee and Germany rejected a proposal that Minsk stated Lukashenko had made to Merkel, beneath which EU international locations would soak up 2,000 migrants, and 5,000 others could be despatched again dwelling..
The USA accused Minsk of utilizing the migrants as "pawns in its efforts to be disruptive".
NATO Secretary-Normal Jens Stoltenberg stated on Friday that the state of affairs on the borders remained deeply regarding.
"Lukashenko's regime's use of weak individuals as a method to place stress on different international locations is cynical and inhumane. NATO stands in full solidarity with all affected allies."