Poland defies EU warning with '£300m plan' to build border wall with Belarus

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Poland defies EU warning with '£300m plan' to build border wall with Belarus

The wall is expected to cost over 1.6 billion zlotys (£300 million), according to a draft bill Poland's MPs discussed yesterday. It is seen as a po

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The wall is expected to cost over 1.6 billion zlotys (£300 million), according to a draft bill Poland’s MPs discussed yesterday. It is seen as a possible solution to stemming the flow of migrants trying to cross.

The announcement came as German police reported an upsurge in the number of migrants illegally entering Germany – the most popular final destination among asylum seekers – after first crossing the Belarus-Polish border and making their way westwards across Poland.

Poland began building a barbed wire fence along its border with Belarus in August to curb the illegal border crossings – despite criticism that some migrants were being treated inhumanely.

The new wall, equipped with a system of motion sensors and cameras, would further bolster border security.

Poland and fellow EU countries Lithuania and Latvia have reported sharp increases in migrants – from countries such as Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq – crossing their borders from Belarus.

“Despite the fact that the Polish-Belarusian section of the state border has been set up with barbed wire and a concertina-type wire fence, the number of attempts to cross the border is not decreasing, but is growing,” said the justification of the bill posted on the parliament’s website.

From the start of January until the end of September, it said, the Border Guard prevented 9,287 attempts to cross the frontier from Belarus into Poland, and of those around 8,000 took place in the last two months alone.

Poland, which is the EU’s largest eastern member and has one of Europe’s biggest border guard services, has for some time sought to invest in new technology to better monitor the border.

It has faced criticism for what many NGOs call illegal pushbacks when it comes to migrants entering Poland from Belarus and for not providing adequate shelter and support for those already in Poland.

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The European Commission said it “strongly opposes any pushback practices, whereby people are forcibly removed from member state territory without any due regard to their individual circumstances” and has “continuously made it clear to national authorities that any such practices are illegal”.

The Commission was forced to summon envoys from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia over the fate of migrants stuck on their border with Belarus.

“I’m very concerned about reports of people including children stuck in forests in dire situation at external EU borders with Belarus,” European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said in demanding a meeting with the three national ambassadors to EU hub Brussels.

The EU blames Belarus for deliberately orchestrating the flow to put pressure on the bloc in retaliation for sanctions it had slapped on Minsk over human rights abuses.

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In Germany, the federal police said on Wednesday that the number of people entering the country after following the Belarus-Poland route had risen above 4,300 since August, against just 26 registered in the period from January to July.

“There are currently no signs of an easing of the situation on the German-Polish border,” the police said, adding that they had stepped up internal border searches and reintroduced temporary frontier controls.

A spokesperson for Germany’s interior ministry said further measures to halt illegal migration were under consideration.

The new influx is prompting comparisons to the 2015 migrant crisis, when more than one million people reached Europe via Greece and the Balkan route, fleeing wars, persecution and poverty in the Middle East and beyond. The majority applied for asylum and settled in Germany.



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