Warsaw, Poland – Germany has proposed to introduce joint border patrols with Poland to curb the ongoing migration surge, Interior Minister Horst Seefoher said this week.
M. Seefoher announced he had sent a letter to that end to his Polish counterpart Mariusz Kaminski but had yet to receive a reply.
German authorities have recorded about 4,500 illegal crossings at its border with Poland since August (compared to only 26 from January to July), with most of them being migrants from Syria or Iraq flown to Belarus on tourist visas in order to reach the EU via Poland.
The joint German-Polish patrols would be introduced to stop these illegal crossings and identify the smugglers, Interior Minister Seehofer indicated, with reports suggested groups of undocumented migrants were transported across Poland to Germany in trucks and cars.
“No one intends a closure of the border,” he insisted, dismissing German media reports claiming this option was being considered. Such a move “would be legally very, very questionable at the moment, because the Poles for their part have taken very, very strong initiatives to prevent irregular migration.”
“We are convinced that the key is probably in Moscow,” Seehofer added, urging Russia to put pressure on Belarus to stop sending migrants across the border in what EU officials have described as “hybrid warfare”.
Faced with an upsurge in illegal crossings along with Lithuania and, to a lesser extent, Latvia, Poland has taken controversial steps to seal off its border, including introducing a state of emergency, reinforcing police and military presence, and building a fence to keep migrants from entering Polish soil.
At least seven migrants have already lost their lives in the border region.
While the EU appears to back Poland’s border protection efforts and refusal to give in to Belarus’ “blackmail”, many have nevertheless expressed strong concerns regarding the rapidly deteriorating situation of migrants still stuck at the Poland-Belarus border.
Right groups have also cautioned that Polish border guards were conducting illegal pushbacks by refusing to allow the migrants to formally apply for asylum, in violation with EU and international rules on asylum-seekers.
Earlier this month, thousands of protesters took to the streets in Warsaw and other Polish cities to express their solidarity with those being refused entry, accusing the government of inhuman and cruel treatment and of keeping aid workers and reporters from reaching the border area.
With temperatures rapidly dropping, many fear the situation will only get worse and that more migrants’ deaths are to be expected unless appropriate measures are taken to either stem the influx and/or provide necessary humanitarian support to those stuck at the border.