The EU executive expressed concern on Friday over the plight of migrants stuck on the Polish-Belarusian border and urged Warsaw to allow the bloc’s joint frontier force Frontex to provide assistance in policing the area.
Three migrants died on the Polish side of the border and one more just inside Belarus earlier this week while trying to cross into Poland. The causes of death have not been given. A fifth death – of an Iraqi man just inside Poland, probably from a heart attack – was reported on Friday.
„We recognise that the Polish authorities are dealing with a difficult situation. The situation has been created by an attempt to instrumentalise people for political purposes,” a spokesman for the European Commission told a news conference.
Poland, which has one of the biggest border forces in the EU, has not requested Frontex assistance, though the agency is helping in nearby Lithuania and Latvia, which also share a border with Belarus.
Warsaw has introduced a state of emergency along its border with Belarus, meaning no journalists, politicians or rights activists are allowed into the area.
The Commission said the EU’s top migration official, Ylva Johnasson, wanted to discuss with Warsaw on Friday financial and other assistance the bloc can provide, including a Frontex deployment and a visit by EU experts to the border zone.
Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has resisted EU pressure to take in some of the mostly Muslim migrants trying to enter Europe, seeing them as a threat to national security and to its Christian culture and identity.
The Commission and rights groups fear that Poland is forcing migrants at the border back into Belarus in a violation of their right to claim asylum.