Military police alert for illegal migration through Belarus, assistance at Lithuania border

The Royal Military Police is alert to the recently increased illegal migration from Belarus to the EU. The checks on roads and trains are not stepped up, but will focus on โ€œcertain itinerariesโ€, the service informs the service on request. A number of marechauszees are currently active in Lithuania on behalf of Frontex, in support of the surveillance of the European external border.

So far, the influence of the โ€œBelarus Routeโ€ seems limited: since June, the military office has found two Middle Eastern migrants who had travelled to the European Union via Belarus.

Germany has seen an increase in mainly Iraqi migrants, crossing the EU external border from Belarus for several weeks. Last week 33 migrants who had travelled to Germany via Belarus and then Poland were arrested, reports the German newspaper Die Welt.

Human Weapon

Illegal migration through Belarus has suddenly started on a large scale since June. Poland, Lithuania and Latvia argue that Belarusian dictator Lukashenko orchestrates illegal migration in retaliation for sanctions brought against his regime. European Union President Ursula von der Leyen also said last week that Minsk is using migrants as a โ€œhuman weaponโ€.

Although Lukashenko has hinted at passing migrants to the EU in the past, he is now washing his hands in innocence. According to him, it is the fault of the EU Member States for migrants to feel โ€œinvitedโ€, referring to the recent evacuations of Afghans from Kabul.

Ten- to hundreds of thousands

The evidence for this โ€œhybrid warfareโ€ is piling up in the meantime. Images from Belarusian opposition media show how groups of migrants arrive at Minsk airport and are then assisted in crossing the EU border.

Until recently, Iraq was mostly concerned, but the group of potential migrants seems to be expanding. Last week, Minsk relaxed fish rules for residents of Pakistan, Egypt and Jordan. Meanwhile, Grodno airport, about 20 kilometres from the Polish border, has been upgraded to an international airport, the Polish Interior Minister reported on Monday. He says he is preparing for the arrival of ten to hundreds of thousands of migrants.

The situation on the border of Poland with Belarus is unclear. Warsaw declared a state of emergency in the two border regions because of the migration, a step which has not been taken since the collapse of Communism. This de facto prohibits journalists from reporting on the situation at the border, which led to protest from NGOs such as Reporters Without Borders.

Polish border guards send migrants back to Belarus without asylum procedure, a spokesman acknowledged earlier this week against Nieuwsuur. These pushbacks are contrary to European asylum rules. Belarus, in turn, refuses to take back migrants, leaving an estimated hundreds of migrants trapped in terrible conditions.

Four deaths were found in the Polish-Belarusian border region on Sunday. According to Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki, they were killed by hypothermia and exhaustion. It is the bitter consequence of Belarusian hybrid warfare, the Prime Minister said.

Aid organizations fear more victims, with winter on the way. In the past week alone, eight minor migrants were admitted to Bialystok children‘s hospital due to overfatigue, bronchitis or pneumonia.

Activists head out into the forest at night to help migrants. News hour went with them:

The UN Migration Organisations (IOM) and Refugees (UNHCR) require access to the border area to investigate the conditions of stuck migrants. โ€œCountries have the right to defend their borders, but not at the expense of human rights,โ€ they write in a statement.

Halt calls

A solution to the issue is not ahead. Where the EU was able to conclude a ‘refugee deal‘ with Turkey (shelter in exchange for money), it is unthinkable with Belarus. Diplomatic traffic between Brussels and Minsk has been on the back burner since the fraudulent presidential election last year, the violent precipitation of protests and the hijacking of a European flight to arrest Belarusian journalist Protasevich.

Brussels is therefore having discussions with migrants’ countries of origin in the hope that they will stop migration. For example, the number of flights from Iraqi Airways to Minsk was reduced after consultation.

Poland is now stepping up the surveillance of the eastern border: another 500 soldiers will be stationed in the border regions this week. Dutch military police forces are not currently operating in Poland as a special Frontex operation has not yet been set upin the country. When the European service becomes active in Poland with a rapid border operation, the military office will investigate whether it can contribute.