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15 Jan

Michal Potocki, Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, November 15, 2012 (Poland)

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Lukashenka Strikes at the West with… Immigrants

The Polish Border Guard fell victim to the cold war between the West and Belarus. The authorities in Minsk deliberately close their eyes to illegal immigrants, who make their way towards Poland and further to the West. The number of people detained on the Polish side of the border has risen several times. With this move Alaksandar Lukashenka blackmails the West in revenge against the EU’s sanctions policy and threatens Europe with a deluge of rebels from Afghanistan.

‘The statistics show an increase in the number of people detained in connection with attempts of illegal border crossing in the Belarusian section’ – says Agnieszka Golias from the Border Guard’s HQ. Between January and September 2012 the guards detained 159 foreigners (except EU and Belarusian citizens). It’s more than in years 2010 and 2011 together. What is more, in the second quarter of the year there were five times more such cases than in the first quarter.  Taking into account organized groups of foreigners, the increase is even higher. Whether in previous years the border guards detected three, four such groups a year, in 2012 there were seventeen of them, according to the Polish Press Agency PAP.

The fact that our border guards have more work to do stems from a deliberate activity of the Belarusian authorities. Since March Alaksandar Lukashenka and the highest ranked representatives of the border services have been repeatedly saying that they do not intend to protect the European Union from immigrants anymore. The Belarusian president stressed this most clearly in October, during a meeting with the Russian press. ‘Every year we have been stopping tens of thousands of illegal immigrants on their way to Europe. But the EU keeps criticizing us. Now we are going to let everyone pass. We don’t have money and if the Europeans won’t pay us, we won’t protect the borders. They shall finally understand what Belarus really is’ – said the Belarusian president.

‘Political declarations playing around with border security do not show a constructive attitude, which the EU awaits from one of its neighbours’ – Peter Stano, spokesperson for Stefan Füle, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy, commented in a conversation with Radio Svaboda. ‘There was no official order from the leaders. The border guards had rather been instructed that they should not be too vigilant’ – says our source in Belarus, who prefers to stay anonymous. Alaksandar Cishchanka, the spokesman of the Belarusian border guards, seems to confirm this information. ‘The protection of its own territory is a priority of every border service. And this is the most important argument’ – he told us.

‘According to our statistics there are about thirty thousand people on our territory illegally. Only hundreds pass through your border. For now. And the refugees from Asia and the CIS are often dangerous and have combat experience. And this is also a problem, isn’t it?’ – adds Mr. Cishchanka. His words elaborate on Mr. Lukashenka’s October statement. ‘We have been hunting down everything that goes through Russia from Afghanistan like idiots. Explosives, radioactive materials, drugs. And for what? It is all destined for the EU, not for us’ – Mr. ?ukašenka told the Russian press.

Should we treat his words as a threat? ‘It is more an element of blackmailing the EU, including Poland. If Brussels extends the sanctions against Belarusian officials, Minsk seeks for retaliation possibilities and for an additional tool to put pressure on the West’ – political analyst Dzianis Mieljanco? from the Belarusian Institute for Strategic Studies (BISS) comments for ‘Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.’ The increase in detentions, though incomparably smaller, encapsulated in several dozen percent, has been also observed on the Belarusian-Lithuanian border. ‘Lithuania is a significantly rarer target of the immigrants than Poland. The next step on their way is Germany. In order to get from our country to the West, one has to go through Poland nevertheless, therefore the transit through Lithuania is – in the eyes of the migrants – an additional, unnecessary risk’ – Rokas Pukinskas from the Lithuanian State Border Guard Service told us.

Mr. Lukashenka openly demands money from the EU. ‘Protecting the border is not an easy undertaking. Yearly, Belarus spends over USD 100m for the protection of the border, that is 5 dollars a month per one metre of the border. Meanwhile over the past 10 years the West allocated USD 50m for help in protection of our borders. This is far less than the EU allocated for the protection of the borders of post-revolutionary Arabic states’ – says Mr. Cishchanka. ‘It is not about the money here, it is all about politics’ – claims Mr. Mieljancou. Polish authorities are aware of the problem. One of the analyses of the Centre for Eastern Studies, a state-supervised research institution, claims: ‘The issue of border security is used by Belarus as a bargaining card when the relationship with the West deteriorates.’

Article originally published (in Polish):



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