Poland sends aid to migrants left stranded at Belarus border

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s government said Tuesday that it sent tents, blankets, power generators and other items to help some 30 refugees and migrants who have been stuck at the country’s border with Belarus for more than two weeks.

Polish officials insisted the group from Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere remain on Belarusian territory and will not be allowed into Poland. They said an aid transport convoy the government sent was waiting at the border for permission to enter Belarus.

Poland and the Baltic states that also border Belarus have accused the government in Minsk of encouraging migrants to cross into their countries. They say it’s in retaliation for the European Union imposing sanctions on Belarusian officials over the crackdown on dissent following the disputed reelection of President Alexander Lukashenko in Aug. 2020.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki visited border guards in the area on Tuesday and praised them for keeping the border closed and safe.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, said it was in contact with Polish authorities and closely monitoring the developments at the border.

“We firmly reject attempts to instrumentalize people for political purposes,” spokesman Christian Wigand said in Brussels. “We cannot accept any attempts by third countries to incite or acquiesce in illegal migration” towards the EU.

Wigand also stressed the need for “orderly border management” and “full respect for migrants’ fundamental rights.”

Opposition politicians and humanitarian organizations have criticized Poland’s right-wing government for not helping the stranded migrants who were sleeping in the open.

The U.N.’s refugee agency has appealed to Poland to let the group in and provide medical and legal assistance.

But Warsaw is refusing to do so.

“If we accept this group, the next moment we will have not 10 or 20…but 1,000, 2,000 and 10,000” people trying to enter, Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said.

“We must not forget that this is … intentionally directed at Poland, somewhat in the spirit of revenge for our assistance to the civic society in Belarus,” Przydacz said.

Poland has granted refuge to a group of dissidents who fled Belarus.

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