Monday, June 5

Poland confirms Belarus border camp is now clear when migrants are taken to shelters

Belarusian authorities say the migrant camp on the Polish border has been cleared, and its people have now been moved to a nearby shelter. Meanwhile, several hundred have been repatriated to Iraq, after losing all hope of reaching Europe.

“As of November 18, all refugees from the makeshift camp on the Belarusian-Polish border near the Brouzgui crossing have been voluntarily transferred to a logistics center,” Belarusian border guards said on Telegram. Photos of the apparently abandoned field were published.

Polish border guards confirmed the evacuation of the camp, which comes after a week of escalating tensions between Belarus and the European Union.

The move is seen as a sign that the country’s disputed leader Alexander Lukashenko, accused of orchestrating the crisis, is now willing to defuse it.

As of Tuesday night, more than a thousand people had already taken refuge in a large hangar near the border, but another 800, according to Minsk, had still spent the night outdoors in freezing temperatures in tents or near campfires.

According to the Belarusian border guards, they were finally relocated due to “deteriorating weather conditions” and were able to receive “hot meals, warm clothes and basic necessities” in the hangar.

In the latest in a series of human tragedies unfolding in the cold, wet forest, a Polish NGO said Thursday that it had helped a Syrian couple who said they lost their one-year-old son.

“It is heartbreaking to see a child freeze to death at the door of the EU”, tweeted The President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli. “The exploitation of migrants and asylum seekers must stop, inhumanity must stop.”

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The makeshift camp has been occupied by some 2,000 people in recent days. It was installed in a wooded area not far from the Brouzgui border post where, on Tuesday, hundreds of migrants faced fire from water cannons and tear gas from Polish forces.

The Belarusian presidency said Thursday afternoon that between 200 and 500 more people remained scattered elsewhere along the border with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Another 5,000 are in the country, he added.

Minsk claimed that during discussions between Alexander Lukashenko and Angela Merkel, the German chancellor said she wanted to see a “humanitarian corridor” to evacuate some 2,000 migrants from the countryside to Germany, which Berlin denied.

On Thursday night, 431 migrants were repatriated to Iraq, the majority to Erbil, in Iraqi Kurdistan, where they are the majority, the rest to Baghdad.

Many children and women were on the repatriation flight, the first since the start of the migration crisis, which Baghdad said was organized “on a voluntary basis.”

Belarus, an ally of Russia and subject to European sanctions for repressing its opposition, is accused by the EU of having encouraged the arrival of these migrants to destabilize the bloc.

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