The images are unbearable, of these men, women and children, bundled up as best they can, in freezing cold, facing Polish soldiers posted behind barbed wire, determined to bar their way. Between 3,000 and 4,000 migrants, mainly from Iraq, are thus immobilized at the EU-Belarus border. At the slightest movement forward, they are sprayed with tear gas and are pushed back. If they retreat, they come up against the Belarusian security forces who make sure to keep them there. NGOs cite an ongoing humanitarian crisis as temperatures drop below zero, and call for de-escalation to help migrants. At least 11 people have died, these organizations report.
Westerners accuse Belarusian Alexander Lukashenko of having deliberately orchestrated the crisis. “Attract migrants by taking advantage of of their fragility is one of the most easy in the world. Staging them, in placing women, children and babies in front of border guards, not very complicated either. The goal is to destabilize the EU ”, blasted the Vice-President of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas. EU foreign ministers are meeting today to expand the sanctions imposed on Belarus following its crackdown on opponents of Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for nearly thirty years. This covers airlines, travel agencies and civil servants “Who participate in the smuggling of migrants to Belarus”, warned EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell. “Lukashenko was wrong. He believed that by retaliating in this way, he was going to twist our arms and have the sanctions overturned. It is just the opposite that occurs ”, he declared to Sunday newspaper.
Diplomatic pressures seem to be leading. Turkey now bans Iraqis, Syrians and Yemenis from visiting Belarus. The private Syrian airline Cham Wings Airlines is also suspending its flights to Minsk. In Iraq, the private company Fly Baghdad has also reportedly suspended its flights to this direction. Western leaders are also, and above all, looking to Russia, suspected of covering the Belarusian operation. Directly implicated, the Russian President, Vladimir Poutine, initially pointed out the responsibility of European countries in the acceleration of migratory flows. . “ It’s their own fault. Political, military and economic. They themselves created the conditions for thousands and hundreds of thousands to arrive. Now they are looking for culprits to blame for what is happening ”, he hammered in a show on the Rossiya TV channel. He would now be prepared to help resolve the crisis. “We are ready to do whatever we can, if there is anything we can do”, he promises.
Poland hardens the tone on its side. Warsaw warns of larger flows in the wake of the EU meeting. Police said on Twitter that 50 migrants who crossed the barrier on Saturday were all arrested. The country would see a complete closure of the border with Belarus . “ The whole (European) community should contribute to the construction of a wall ”, wishes Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
The EU is thus preparing to unite to defend its border. The leaders spread statements of firmness and other promises of sanctions without ever mentioning the humanitarian emergency. Not the slightest word of indignation in front of these thousands of people abandoned to their sad fate in appalling living conditions. How can we imagine that solutions cannot be found for 3,000 migrants, driven by despair and pawns in the standoff between two totalitarian regimes, in a situation of distress when the cold weather arrives? At the same time, Europe endorses the xenophobic and anti-migrant discourse of the Polish government. It confirms its fortress policy and encourages the positions of all extreme right-wingers across the continent. A wall is already there, that of shame. The only mark of dignity: the discreet solidarity of Belarusian and Polish citizens who come to the aid of migrant families in the darkness of the forests.