Gaps in the Border Fence: Escalating Challenges at the Poland-Belarus Border

news 30-Jun-2023 Europe

A Border Fence with Gaps

A year ago, a new fortification was inaugurated on the border between Poland and Belarus. However, the structure has proven to be surmountable, and residents in the Polish border area continue to report dramatic escape attempts. One year after the official completion of the border fence on the eastern border, the Polish border guards have concluded that there is no barrier that cannot be overcome. However, according to spokesperson Michal Bura, his agency now has more time to intervene.

Now, mainly men between the ages of 20 and 40 are arriving. Before the construction of the border fence, women, children, and even pregnant women also attempted to cross.

Dramatic scenes - apparently orchestrated by Belarus

In response to the increasing number of migrants, primarily from Arab and African countries, who started arriving in 2021, Poland reacted by building an electronically monitored border fence with barbed wire, seemingly supported by the Belarusian state.

At times, only chains of police officers with shields were able to hold back entire groups, leading to outbreaks of violence. The practice of rejection left some people wandering in the forested region for days, and some paid with their lives.

The consequences - still evident today

For the residents in the borderland, the border fence brought relief; their homeland had been a restricted area for months. It is no longer the case, but cross-border trade and tourism have not recovered. When asking residents in the border town of Krynki, reports emerge of refugees sleeping in the forests and people attempting to cross the border river into Poland.

A woman says it is dangerous, as many have drowned.

Moreover, rows of NATO wire behind the rivers form additional barriers, and there are life-threatening swamp areas. If people still want to overcome the border fence itself, they apparently use tunnels or ladders; Arabic-speaking chat forums even offer to tear holes in the fence for a few thousand dollars.

Critics of the wall in the border town of Krynki argue that the border fortification only leads to more people resorting to the services of criminal smugglers and taking more dangerous routes.

Challenging research in the border vicinity

What exactly is happening in the border area and how many people may still be dying there unnoticed is unknown: locals avoid the border area, and even the ARD team is informed by masked Polish soldiers during a visit that it is a militarily controlled area and asked to leave.

Since the beginning of the year, the Polish border guards have officially recorded 12,500 attempts by people from 44 countries to irregularly cross the border. According to the refugee organization "Grupa Granica," they received 4,600 calls from migrants in distress in the border area during the same period.

Authorities in Poland and neighboring Lithuania have recently warned of increased activities from the Belarusian side. This could be related to the upcoming NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital.

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