The Observers

Renewed migrant pushbacks between Belarus and Poland worry NGOs

The association Grupa Granica has seen an uptick in migrant crossings, especially of families with children, at the Poland-Belarus border since the spring.
The association Grupa Granica has seen an uptick in migrant crossings, especially of families with children, at the Poland-Belarus border since the spring. © Observers

Since March, migrants have again begun to ask NGOs for aid after being stranded in the forest at the Polish-Belarusian border. In 2021, tens of thousands of migrants had attempted this new migration route in the hope of reaching the European Union. According to our Observer, a member of the Grupa Granica association, Poland continues to turn back the migrants, despite their desperate situation.

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During the winter, there were fewer crossings, partly because hundreds of migrants were housed in a former warehouse that Belarusian officials converted into a shelter in Bruzgui, near the Polish border. Most were sent back to their home countries. 

>> Read more on The Observers: Migrants turned away at Belarus-Poland border: 'We see families and people with disabilities'

In March, the Belarusian authorities evicted those who remained in the Bruzgui warehouse, "including many families with young children and people suffering from severe illnesses and disabilities", according to Amnesty International. 

'Like last year, almost all of them are being turned around and sent back by Polish border guards, multiple times'

Since the eviction, our Observer Monika Matus, member of the Grupa Granica collective, has noticed an increase in calls for help at the border: 

We had around 150 people asking us for help within one week. These are kind of like average numbers of people crossing. Of course, there's many of them who are not asking for help. 

We are, unfortunately, seeing a lot of families with children, a lot of people with different disabilities, elderly people, people with mental disabilities as well. 

Like last year, almost all of them are being turned around and sent back by Polish border guards, multiple times. And then, multiple times, they are forced to cross the border again by the Belarusian soldiers or border guards.

We also know that there have been quite a few people who stayed over the winter in Minsk and Grodno [in Belarus]. Now it's getting a little bit warmer again, so they are trying to cross these days. 

Also, I think quite a lot of people try to cross because the Polish side is building a wall. The wall is not such a big obstacle. It's just, really, metal fencing. But once it will be equipped, like many European borders, with all of the technical solutions to survey the wall, I think it's going to be much more difficult to cross.

In 2021, the Polish Border Guard recorded 39,700 attempts to enter illegally from Belarus, including almost 17,000 in October alone.