Monday, 8 August, 2022
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Poland finishes EU-Belarus border wall

Poland finishes EU-Belarus border wall

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WARSAW: Poland said Thursday it had finished building a steel wall along the Belarus border to deter migrants, after it blamed Minsk for allowing in an influx to "destabilise" the region, reports AFP.

Tens of thousands of migrants and refugees, mostly from the Middle East, have crossed or attempted to cross into Poland from Belarus since last summer.

The West has accused the Belarusian regime of orchestrating the influx with its ally Russia in a "hybrid" attack, a type of warfare using non-military tactics -- a charge Minsk denies.

"The barrier we've built separates us from the bleak dictatorship of (Belarus leader Alexander) Lukashenko," Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski told reporters.

"Belarus... shares responsibility for Russia's aggression against Ukraine," he added, speaking in front of the 5.5-metre (18-foot) high wall in Poland's border town of Kuznica.

The migrant wave at the Belarus border "was part of a wider scenario, a scenario to destabilise the whole region, all of Central and Eastern Europe," he said.

"It was groundwork for the war in Ukraine."

Spanning more than 186 kilometres (116 miles), the wall covers nearly half the length of Poland's border with Belarus and cost and estimated 350 million euros.

Poland had earlier set up a no-access zone at the border, which expires Friday, banning non-residents, including migrants, aid workers and media from the area.

It also sent thousands of troops and police officers to reinforce border guard patrols at the height of the crisis, and approved a law allowing migrants to be forced back into Belarus.

These so-called "pushbacks", and the government's overall harsh anti-migration stance, drew condemnation from activists and aids organisations.

At least a dozen people died at the Polish-Belarus border, where over the winter the migrants and refugees -- many of them fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East -- faced squalid, freezing conditions.

But since Russia's invasion, Poland has opened its arms to refugees from Ukraine, allowing more than four million so far to cross over from the war-torn country.