BERLIN (AP) – German authorities said on Wednesday that the number of migrants arriving in the country via Poland and Belarus had increased in the months when several European Union countries accused the Belarusian government of encouraging people to enter the EU from its territory.
German Federal Police said more than 4,300 people crossed the border illegally from Poland this year, most of them coming from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Iran, the German news agency reported. dpa. EU member Poland accused neighboring Belarus of encouraging large-scale migration to destabilize the 27-nation bloc.
German federal police said that from January to July this year, 26 people traveling by the “Belarus road” arrived in Germany without permission. The number rose to 474 in August, 1,914 in September and 1,934 in the first 11 days of October, federal police said.
Most of the new arrivals were accommodated in reception centers for asylum seekers in the eastern state of Brandenburg. The centers can accommodate 3,500 people and the authorities have added tents to make room for up to 5,000 people.
“The situation is not dramatic, but it is difficult,” said Olaf Jansen, head of the foreigners’ office in the city of Eisenhuettenstadt, in eastern Germany. There are fears that the coronavirus could spread among the new arrivals, he said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is among European leaders who have joined Poland in accusing the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of facilitating migration to the EU as a form of “hybrid war” in retaliation for EU sanctions.
Thousands of migrants have been lured to Belarus on tourist visas and encouraged to enter Poland, Lithuania and, to a lesser extent, Latvia, the three EU countries that border Belarus.
Several recently died of exhaustion as they tried to cross from Belarus to Poland through an area of forests and swamps.
The German government said on Wednesday it was working on various measures to curb migration on the country’s eastern border.
“There are currently consultations with our partners, both in Germany and abroad, on measures to prevent illegal migration to Germany,” Interior Ministry spokesman told dpa. , Steve Alter. He did not give more details.
In Poland, the government on Tuesday evening approved a bill that would regulate the construction of a high barrier with motion detectors on the border with Belarus to deter people from crossing. Its cost is estimated at 1.65 billion zlotys (407 million dollars; 352 million euros). A vote by lawmakers could take place as early as Wednesday.
Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski told the official PAP news agency that the fence was necessary because “the number of attempts by illegal migrants to cross the border has not decreased despite the fact that it there are more border guards, soldiers and police at the border. “
In 2015-2016, more than a million people fleeing war in the Middle East made dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean and the Aegean Sea, seeking safety in Western Europe, and in particular Germany. But after their arrival, the EU installed surveillance drones and struck deals with Turkey and Libya to keep the migrants away.
The much less protected path to the EU, through the forests and swamps of Eastern Europe, has become a popular route after the EU imposed sanctions on Lukashenko and other Belarusian officials in the following the flawed presidential election of August 2020 in their country and a severe crackdown on anti-government protesters.
“The measures taken by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko demanded a firm response from the Polish government,” Kaminski told PAP.
The Polish border guard agency said on Wednesday it recorded 470 illegal border crossing attempts on Tuesday and prevented all of them. The agency said that so far this month there have been 6,700 blocked attempts to cross the border, and 18,300 since the start of the year.
Also on Wednesday, the Polish Internal Security Agency said it had arrested a Pole on suspicion of secretly collaborating with Belarusian intelligence services, working against Polish interests.
Gera reported from Warsaw.
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