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European neighbours jointly rebuke Belarus for illegal migrant surge

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WARSAW (Reuters) – The leaders of Poland, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia came together on Saturday to condemn Belarus for allowing migrants to illegally cross its borders into the European Union.

“All European Union member states have a duty to protect borders and to stop illegal entries,” read a Polish government statement published after a videoconference of the countries’ prime ministers.

In recent weeks, Lithuania has reported a surge in illegal border crossings from Belarus and accused Minsk of flying in migrants from abroad and dispatching them into the EU.

Border guards near the town of Usnarz Gorny, north-west Poland, 20 August 2021. A group of people wanders on the Belarusian side near the border with Poland. They have already put up a few tents, they have new masks. They are still guarded by officers from two countries – Belarus and Poland. EPA-EFE/ARTUR RESZKO POLAND OUT

Earlier this month, Poland accused Belarus of sending a growing number of migrants over the border in retaliation for Warsaw’s decision to give refuge to Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian athlete who refused to return home from the Tokyo Olympics.

Belarus officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Polish authorities have faced criticism from human rights groups for not accepting migrants, and for denying those at the border adequate medical care.

A read-out of the videoconference, circulated by the Polish Prime Minister’s Chancellery, stated that all illegal migrants had been cared for appropriately.

“It’s important to underline that those who did in fact cross the border are being cared for in special sites for this purpose,” the statement read.

More than 30 migrants have been camping out in the forest along Poland’s border with Belarus near the village of Usnarz Gorne for almost two weeks, Polish media reports say.

Poland’s border guard was seen unrolling barbed wire along the border, footage from private broadcaster TVN showed.

Poland’s Border Guard said in a tweet published Friday that it had already asked Belarusian authorities three times to intervene and that Belarus said it was doing so.

Meanwhile, Poland in recent days flew in over 260 individuals fleeing Afghanistan, Polish prime minister chief of staff Michal Dworczyk told PAP news agency on Saturday.Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk; Editing by Christina Fincher

Photo – Border guards and volunteers from the Salvation Foundation near the town of Usnarz Gorny, north-west Poland, 20 August 2021. A group of people wanders on the Belarusian side near the border with Poland. They have already put up a few tents, they have new masks. They are still guarded by officers from two countries – Belarus and Poland. EPA-EFE/ARTUR RESZKO POLAND