NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — The European Union should take “specific actions” to stop Belarus “pushing” migrants across its border into Polish territory, Poland's president said on Thursday.
President Andrzej Duda didn’t outline what those actions might be, but said he’s hoping for assistance beyond what the 27-member bloc’s border agency FRONTEX is already providing on the ground.
“I believe and hope that ... the European Union will undertake specific actions in order to get Belarusian authorities to change their stance,” Duda said after talks with his Cypriot counterpart Nicos Anastasiades in Nicosia.
Thousands of migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa have been lured to Belarus on tourist visas and encouraged to cross into Poland, Lithuania, and to a lesser extent Latvia — all three EU nations that border Belarus.
Several recently died of exhaustion as they tried to reach Poland across an area of forests and swamps.
Duda said the situation along Poland’s border with Belarus is “completely contrary” to international law and accused Belarusian authorities of behaving “irresponsibly.”
Duda said Poland is acting to prevent the situation from morphing into a continent-wide crisis and that EU countries can “rest easy” that Warsaw will protect the bloc’s external borders.
On Wednesday, Belarus’ exiled opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” which she said is being created by the Belarusian regime facilitating largescale migration into the EU.
Poland has taken a tough approach to securing its border, saying it must defend its national security in the face of a “hybrid war” attack by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko in retaliation to what officials said was Warsaw's support for the Belarusian opposition.
Anastasiades said the EU is united in its condemnation of turning migrants into a political instrument and urged measures against countries that do so.
The Cypriot government has accused Turkey of deliberately channeling migrants to Cyprus through the ethnically split island nation's breakaway Turkish Cypriot north. Officials say Cyprus has the highest number of asylum applications relative to its population among all other EU members.
Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration