Poland builds fence at Belarus border to stop people smuggling

Poland started building a fence along the border with Belarus on Tuesday to block the entry of illegal migrants. The fence will be 5.5 meters high, 186 kilometers long and cost 350 million euros to build. Poland and Belarus share a border of 418 km.

The Polish parliament decided in November to build a border wall in response to the thousands of migrants who have been trying to cross the Polish border from Belarus since last summer.

The new fence will be equipped with, among other things, cameras and motion detectors to help border guards prevent people smuggling. “The temporary fence (made of barbed wire) has already helped us a lot because it gave us time to prepare while a group of migrants was about to attack, to open a passage, time to get enough resources and mobilize personnel to prevent this," said a border guard spokesman. Construction is expected to be completed in June.

The project has raised concerns among human rights and environmental activists. The former fear that migrants fleeing conflict situations will not be able to apply for asylum, and the latter fear the negative consequences for the nature of the forest area on the border.

The European Union has accused Belarus of facilitating illegal immigration to EU countries in retaliation for sanctions imposed on a prominent opposition journalist during the disputed August 2020 presidential election, the subsequent crackdown on peaceful protests and the hijacking of a commercial aircraft. to be able to arrest.

Thousands of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, including Iraqi Kurdistan, Syria and Lebanon, as well as from Afghanistan, tried to cross the Polish border to the EU last year. 

Frontex, the border authority of the EU, discovered nearly 8000 illegal border crossings through the borders with Belarus - Poland, Lithuania, Latvia last year. That is a thousand times as many as the year before. About a dozen migrants have since died at the border.

Poland has declared a state of emergency on its border, restricting access to the area for journalists and aid organizations, removing oversight of the unfolding crisis.