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The Polish government on Tuesday asked the president to declare a state of emergency along the border with Belarus as he tries to prevent migrants from entering from the neighboring country. The government cited the potential risk of foreign actors and the actions of protesters in Poland as justifications for the declaration.

President Andrzej Duda later said he was urgently analyzing the request and hinted that he would accept it.

“Please expect the security of Poland to be strengthened as soon as possible through legal acts, as well as subsequent actions at the Polish border,” Duda said.

Parliament would need to approve the decision for the declaration to take effect, and the president said he believed lawmakers would support his decision.

Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said a state of emergency would not have much of an effect on the local population but would impose limits on foreigners in a border area of ​​around 3 kilometers (almost 2 miles) wide.

Meanwhile, more than 30 Afghans have been trapped for more than three weeks between armed Belarusian guards on one side and the Polish armed forces on the other. Some are sick because they have limited access to food and the weather is deteriorating, with recent rains and falling temperatures.

Poland, a member of the European Union, has seen large numbers of migrants seeking to cross the border illegally in recent weeks, most of them from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Polish government accuses the authoritarian leader of Belarus, President Alexander Lukashenko, of pushing them towards Poland to create instability in the EU.

“We must stop these aggressive hybrid actions, which are carried out according to a script written in Minsk and by the patrons of Mr Lukashenko,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said at a press conference in Warsaw.

Poland has already deployed hundreds of troops to reinforce border guards and set up a high barbed wire fence.

Protesters and human rights activists have traveled to the border in recent weeks in an attempt to help a group of migrants to Poland who have been stranded in the open for more than three weeks.

Poland insists that the group is on Belarusian soil and will not allow migrants to approach Polish territory or seek asylum. Activists say there are 32 people from Afghanistan, many of whom are now sick.

Marianna Wartecka of refugee rights group Fundacja Ocalenie said eight of the migrants have kidney problems and five have diarrhea. The sickest person in the group is a 52-year-old woman who traveled from Afghanistan with her five mostly adult children, Wartecka said.

An activist who speaks Dari, one of Afghanistan’s official languages, used a megaphone to communicate with stranded Afghans, who shout or gesture to respond with their hands. But Polish border guards are launching sirens and setting up vans to cut off communication, Wartecka told The Associated Press.

She believes the state of emergency would force activists to move further away from the border area.

Over the weekend, 13 people from another activist group, Obywatele RP (Citizens of Poland), were arrested for trying to cut a new barbed wire fence at the border to protest what they had called the “inhuman” behavior of the Polish authorities. .

Kaminski called the activists’ behavior “scandalous”.

The interior minister and the president noted that Russian military maneuvers are expected to begin in September and will include exercises in Belarus, arguing the need to strengthen the Polish border.

An interfaith coalition on Tuesday called on Polish authorities to provide humanitarian aid to stranded migrants. The coalition, which includes Christian, Jewish and Muslim representatives, said those stranded at the border “suffer from hunger, cold and indifference.”

“Motivated by feelings of human solidarity, we call on the competent Polish authorities to immediately provide the refugees stranded in the border area with the necessary humanitarian aid,” the Community of Conscience – Coalition of Mutual Respect said in a statement.

Polish border guards said more than 3,200 people attempted to enter Poland illegally from Belarus in August alone. He said most were from Iraq, followed by Afghanistan, but some also came from Somalia, Tajikistan and Syria.

Other EU countries on the border with Belarus – mainly Lithuania but also Latvia and Estonia – have also faced migratory pressures. The four have increased security at their borders, which are part of the EU’s external border.


Monika Scislowska in Warsaw contributed.


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