Follow RT on Poland is set to build a new border wall on its eastern flank in an effort to end a sharp spike in asylum seekers attempting to cross over from neighboring Belarus, after Warsaw declared a state of emergency over the situation.
On Wednesday, the country’s president, Andrzej Duda, signed into force new legislation for the construction of the barrier, after it was backed by the national parliament. Expected to cost more than $400 million, work on the new wall will likely be completed next summer. Running close to half the length of the 400-kilometer border, it will be kitted out with both motion sensors and surveillance systems.
Warsaw has warned that around 500 people a day are attempting to cross into the country illegally, with a sharp spike in recent months. The EU has accused Belarus of laying on flights from troubled destinations like Iraq and Iran, and of encouraging would-be migrants to make the border crossing.
Officials in Brussels have claimed that the country’s embattled leader, Alexander Lukashenko, is “weaponizing” desperate people in a bid to put pressure on the EU, in response to sanctions imposed by the bloc in the wake of Belarus’ disputed presidential election last year and subsequent crackdown on the opposition. Lukashenko insists his government simply is no longer prepared to stop migrants from reaching the border.
Just last week, two Polish border guards were hospitalized after asylum seekers launched an assault on a makeshift fence along the demarcation line, hoping to cross into the EU. According to Warsaw, the “attempts of violent crossing into Poland were thwarted” but the two officers had been injured by a crowd throwing branches and stones. Officials allege that Belarusian soldiers, wearing civilian clothes, were assisting the crowd.
Lithuania, which also borders Belarus and has seen a similar rise in the number of illegal crossings, has begun work on a border fence of its own, with troops installing razor wire and stepping up their presence in the area. “The physical barrier is vital for us to repel this hybrid attack, which the Belarus regime is undertaking against Lithuania and the EU,” Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte said in August.
In September, Lukashenko put forward rule changes that would tear up previous agreements with Brussels and allow his country to reject those eventually deported from EU member states for crossing the border without permission. The move “was prepared in response to the unfriendly actions taken by the EU and its member states towards Belarus,” Minsk said in a statement.
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