WARSAW (Reuters) – A visa waiver for participants of an art festival in Belarus in July could serve as a gateway for migrants and renew pressure on Poland’s eastern border, a senior Polish security official said.
Poland has been a refuge for opponents of Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, and has become one of Kyiv’s staunchest supporters since Belarus’ main ally Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.
It has also accused Belarus of artificially creating a migrant crisis on the border by flying in people from the Middle East and Africa and attempting to push them across the frontier.
In response to the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East and Afghanistan, Poland built a steel border barrier, but its border guard still reports dozens of attempts to enter Poland illegally daily.
“A potential new reason for attracting migrants from high-risk countries to Belarus could be the International Art Festival ‘Slavonic Bazaar’ in Vitebsk,” Stanislaw Zaryn, deputy to Minister Coordinator of Special Services wrote on Twitter.
By decree of Lukashenko, participants and guests of the July event from 73 countries, including the Middle East, Africa and Latin America, would be exempt from visa requirements for entering Belarus.
“The migration facilitation introduced, if successful, may lead to an increase in the influx of people to Belarus, which Lukashenko’s services will use to intensify the hybrid operation conducted on our eastern border,” Zaryn wrote.
Festival ticket holders will be able to enter Belarus without a visa from between July 4-23, a Belarus government website says.
No-one from the Belarusian embassy in Warsaw was immediately available for comment.
Photo: A view of the Polish-Belarusian border near Chworosciany village, north-eastern Poland. EPA-EFE/Artur Reszko