Geopolitical conflict at EU external border
»Lukashenko as an unlicensed tour operator«
»If anybody wants to go West, that is your right. We will not try to catch you, beat you, and hold you behind wire. We will work with you to achieve your dream,« promised last week, a controversial Belarusian leader and self-proclaimed president, Alexander Lukashenko.
For last four weeks some 7,000 migrants and refugees mainly from Middle East are trapped at Eastern Polish-Belarusian border in “no man’s land”. Belarus is pushing them to pass, while Poland doesn’t allow them to enter.
Human rights watchdog organisations are accusing both countries of numerous violations.
»Men, women, and children have been ping-ponged across the Poland-Belarus border for days or weeks in freezing weather, desperately needing humanitarian assistance that is being blocked on both sides,« Human Rights Watch said.
EU and NATO members are accusing Lukashenko of creating a »hybrid crisis« importing migrants from Middle East and promising them open access to EU, while none of the EU countries are showing willingness to solve the problem by humanitarian way.
Reportedly migrants continue to be caught in a squalid conditions at the Polish and Lithuanian borders. While Lithuania this week begun to construct a razor wire fence on its border to keep out an influx of migrants.
Belarus blackmailing EU
In the eyes of the international community there is one man responsible for the migrant crisis on the EU external border, Belarusian autocrat for 27 years, Lukashenko.
»Families and children were deceived and dragged into the tragedy, which has led to much suffering, while Lukashenko behaved like an unlicensed tour operator,« stated, EU Home Affairs and Migration Commissioner, Ylva Johansson.
EU’s conflict with Belarusian authorities started after presidential elections in 2020, for which Lukashenko is accused of stealing and launching a violent crackdown. Since then numerous sanctions were announced against this Eastern isolated pro-Russian state. West believes Minsk’s created a manufactured hybrid conflict to blackmail EU.
While most of the EU leaders denounce any open dialogue with Lukashenko, one of them in the hurry to find the agreement, decided to make an exception.
»Take some 2,000 of them, while we will work on sending other 5,000 back to Iraq, Syria, Iran and Afghanistan,« said Lukashenko for BBC about his conversation with chancellor Angela Merkel. Critics and some politicians prompted that »Merkel with her step legitimize the dictator«.
In rare interview for Western media, Lukashenko is seen, belittling the journalist, while he answers inconsistently and illogically. He is refusing any wrongdoing and even claims, that »migrants came to Belarus using route through Balkans and Mediterranean.«
Migrants are denying those statements, claiming they were provided with short-term visas by Belarusian regime, had paid few thousand euros to arrive to Minsk and were given guaranty they will be able to travel to Western Europe.
To soften the border crisis Belarusian authorities recently cleared the makeshift camps and provided a modest temporary shelter in warehouse for some 2,000 people where reportedly desperation is growing daily. Some 2,000 have returned voluntary to Iraq.
EU had no other option but to trust to Poland, which is also using the migrant tragedy to recover its image on the EU floor and gain political support at home.
Poland — an EU guard?
Just two months ago Poland was engaged in “constitutional dispute” with EU while its now presenting itself as a “European external defender”.
»Lukashenko launched a hybrid war against the EU. This is the greatest attempt to destabilize Europe in 30 years. Poland will will do evreything to defend the EU’s borders. We must stand together to defend Europe,« promised conservative Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki.
Indeed Polish security forces are preparing itself for military conflict: deployed thousand troops, which are patrolling the border day and night. They fired water cannon in response to migrants throwing rocks and are according to numerous reports practicing few ten pushbacks per day.
»Pushback practices by Polish border guards violate the right to asylum under EU law including the charter of fundamental rights,« emphasises Human Rights Watch.
On the other hand some commentators warn that in manufactured crisis where people are pushed and trapped, terms as “war zone” doesn’t really suit.
Under the state of emergency declared by Polish authorities in September, media, aid organisations and volunteers were banned from helping. The government said the restrictions were »necessary for security reasons and to stop any escalation of violence«, but the opposition said the ban was intended to cover up rights abuses and had sought unfettered access.
Poland is itself creating manufactured militarized zone using all needs to escalate the pressure and presents itself in the best possible light accusing others for causing the mess.
Polish authorities among others believe the mastermind of the border conflict sits in Moscow.
»Lukashenko is only the executor, while this assault has a sponsor who is to be found in Moscow, and this sponsor is President Putin,« Morawiecki said at an emergency debate in Poland’s parliament.
EU with new sanctions
Most of EU leaders are united that »political problem was created artificially by Minsk in response to sanctions«.
This week EU adopted a fifth package of new sanctions against Belarus that will add 17 people and 12 entities as the bloc targets. Among them are: Belavia, the national air carrier, some tourism companies, judges and prosecutors.
»Migrants wishing to cross the [EU’s] external border have been flying to Minsk on board flights operated by Belavia. In order to facilitate this, Belavia opened new air routes and expanded the number of flights on existing routes,« the EU document says.
No new solutions are at the moment seen on horizon from EU, while some few hundred migrants are still daily trying to breach the border and enter the EU.
Reportedly at least ten of them lost their lives in last weeks from hunger, freezing condition and sicknesses.
Poland needs to fix its appearance in EU, while also at home image of highly militarized borders and strong anti-migration rhetoric is something ruling Law and Justice party desperately needs. Crisis indeed helps also Belarus, where Lukashenko yearns to be heard from EU bloc.
The analysis of his interview almost 20 years ago on official president’s website proves, that the decisions this unpredictable ruler took, are not coincidental.
»I’m confident that Europeans will not just come to Belarus, they will crawl and ask us for help in cooperation, at least in the fight against illegal migrants because this is now their most painful point,« he said.
And he was right.
If something divides EU is its undecessivness to help people in need, act in solidarity and homogenously built new migration policy.
Article was originally published in German in Austrian Magazine, The Global Player.