Poland insists neighbor Belarus uses migrants as a ‘tool’

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s prime minister vowed Thursday that his country would stand firm and block migrants, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, who have been seeking to enter from neighboring Belarus.

Poland accuses the authoritarian government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of sending the migrants across its border, creating a humanitarian crisis.

“(The migrants) are people with whom I sincerely sympathize, but they are an instrument, a tool in the hands of Mr. Lukashenko,” Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, told a news conference.

He vowed that Poland would not succumb to “this type of blackmail.”

Hundreds of soldiers have been deployed to the border and at least 100 kilometers (60 miles) of barbed wire have been laid as Poland seeks to prevent the migrants from entering.

Several dozen people, mainly from Iraq and Afghanistan, have been wandering for several days in the border zone, near the town of Usnarz Górny. Polish authorities do not want to let them in while Belarus doesn’t want to let them back.

Fundacja Ocalenie (Salvation Foundation), a humanitarian group that sent activists to the border, said there were 32 people from Afghanistan there, among them women and sick people.

The foundation posted a photo of migrants being surrounded by Polish border guards and soldiers. One showed what they said was people from Afghanistan who had carried a cat with them.

Meanwhile, Poland has sent 100 soldiers to Afghanistan to evacuate Poles and Afghans who worked with the Polish mission, vowing to show solidarity to them.

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