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Poland-Belarus border: Five refugees die in one week

September 24, 2021

Poland has so far refused to allow journalists, human rights observers, or EU border guards near its frontier with Belarus. Authorities in neither country have confirmed how four of the five perished.

Polish activists protested the state of emergency at the border
Polish activists protested the state of emergency at the border on September 6Image: Maciej Luczniewski/NurPhoto/picture alliance

An Iraqi refugee died at the Polish-Belarusian border of an apparent heart attack, officials in Poland said on Friday. The man was the fifth person to die on the border between the two countries since Monday.

"Last night, a group of immigrants from Iraq was detained 500 meters from the border with Belarus. One of the men, despite having been resuscitated by a patrol and an ambulance team, has died," the Polish Border Guard wrote on Twitter. They added that another person in the group had been admitted to a local hospital after exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19.

Authorities have not confirmed how the other four passed away.

Poland and Lithuania have both accused neighboring Belarus of encouraging Iraqi and Afghan refugees to flout EU law and cross the border. This tactic is seen as a bid to put pressure on the bloc to lift economic sanctions against Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko's dictatorship.

According to Polish border police, there have been at least 5,000 attempts to cross the border since the start of September.

Poland: State of emergency at border

Poland rebuffs EU offer

Later on Friday, the European Union asked Warsaw to allow EU border patrol agency Frontex to support Polish troops at the Belarusian frontier.

"It is essential for Poland to carry out border management duties effectively. However, this should not come at the expense of human life. We urge member state authorities to ensure that people at the border are given the necessary care and assistance," a spokesman for the European Commission told a news conference.

The Polish government has so far rejected the invitation to bring in Frontex guards. It has implemented a state of emergency at the border, which means no journalists or human rights observers are allowed in the area.

es/rs (AFP, Reuters)