Tue. Oct 19th, 2021

A state of emergency would give the authorities greater powers to monitor and control people’s movements.

The Polish government on Tuesday asked the president to declare a state of emergency in two regions on the border with Belarus after the Polish border guard said hundreds of irregular crossings had taken place this month.

Poland began building a barbed wire fence along the border last week in an effort to curb the flow of asylum seekers from countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan crossing Belarus.

A state of emergency would give the authorities greater powers to monitor and control people’s movements.

President Andrzej Duda, a close ally of the ruling Nationalist Law and Justice Party (PiS), is likely to approve the state of emergency, which would last 30 days and cover parts of the Podlaskie and Lubelskie regions.

“The situation on the border with Belarus is a crisis and is still tense,” Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at a news conference when he announced the move.

Relations between the European Union and Belarus have deteriorated sharply in recent years since President Alexander Lukashenko won a landslide victory in an election held by his opponents and Western countries.

Border signs are displayed on the Polish-Belarusian border near the town of Usnarz Gorny, Poland, on August 23 [Kacper Pempel/Reuters]

The EU has slammed economic sanctions on Belarus, accusing Lukashenko of deliberately encouraging asylum seekers to move irregularly to Poland and the Baltic states, Latvia and Lithuania, in the form of ‘hybrid warfare’.

“Lukashenko’s regime has decided to push these people to Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in an attempt to destabilize them,” Morawiecki said.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said the planned state of emergency would mostly apply to areas on or near the border.

Poland also sees Belarus’s behavior as retaliation for Warsaw’s decision to resort to Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian athlete who refused to return home from the Tokyo Olympics. Minsk did not respond to a request for comment.

Polish authorities have been criticized by human rights groups for not accepting asylum seekers and for refusing adequate medical care to those on the border. Warsaw says it is the responsibility of the Belarusian authorities.

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