The international community reacted sharply against the deepening border crisis between Belarus and Poland Tuesday, as thousands of migrants from Belarus have continued to gather on the Polish border while seeking entry into the European Union. Poland continues to blame the situation on the Belarusian government, saying that the Belarusian army is coordinating and encouraging a “mass entry” of Middle Eastern migration into Poland as an intentional act to destabilize the European Union.
President Ursula von der Leyen of the European Union agreed with the Polish view in a statement, saying that “the instrumentalization of migrants for political purposes by Belarus is unacceptable”, and calling on EU member states to approve an extended sanctions regime on Belarus for what she described as a “hybrid attack”. The president of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg, voiced similar concerns, saying that NATO stood “in solidarity with Poland and all our Allies in the region”.
The US Department of State “strongly condemn[ed]” the Belarusian government for the situation, calling it “political exploitation and coercion of vulnerable people” and affirmed American support for Poland. The Department of State also stated that the US government would continue to apply pressure to Belarusian President Lukashenko and called on his government to immediately halt the facilitation of migrant flows across Belarus.
The United Nations meanwhile expressed concern for the migrants’ treatment at the border, with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration issuing a joint statement calling on all UN member states to ensure the safety and human rights of migrants and refugees, and reminding the governments involved that “immediate and unhindered access” to provide humanitarian assistance to the migrants should be the highest priority. The statement stated the severity of cold weather conditions at the border and called the use of migrants and refugees for political ends “deplorable”.
Poland and Belarus have experienced increased tension at their shared border throughout this year, with the Polish parliament passing a bill authorizing a border wall with Belarus in October in direct response to an increase of Middle Eastern migrants traveling through Belarus into Poland. It is believed that the Belarusian government is sponsoring and encouraging the movement of thousands of migrants into Poland as a means to exact revenge for EU sanctions leveraged against Belarus earlier this year.