WARSAW, Poland (AP) – Polish police said Saturday they found the body of a young Syrian in a forest near the Belarusian border, the latest victim of the political clash on the eastern border of the European Union.
For months, the regime of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has encouraged illegal immigration across its border into Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, three EU partners. These three nations are reinforcing their borders to block a new migration route whose danger increases as winter approaches.
The body was found near the village of Wólka Terechowska on Friday, police said, saying the cause of death was unknown at the moment.
With this, at least nine people have lost their lives trying to reach community soil this way.
Many of the migrants come from Syria, Iraq and others from the Middle East, fleeing wars and despair at the prospect of leading a better life in Europe.
Most of them are in a makeshift camp on the Belarusian side of the border in freezing conditions. Polish authorities report new attempts to cross the border on a daily basis.
The situation shows no sign of resolving anytime soon. According to a report by the Belarusian state news agency Belta, Lukashenko on Saturday ordered the army to set up tents on the border where they can collect and distribute food and humanitarian aid to migrants.
The Polish Border Guard said on Saturday morning that in one of the crossing attempts, Belarusian soldiers began to destroy a temporary barrier near the Polish village of Czeremcha and used laser beams to blind rival security forces.
Nearby, a group of about 100 people waited to enter the country. “The Belarusians equipped foreigners with tear gas, which were used against Polish services,” added the authorities, noting that they were able to stop the operation.
Many of the incidents reported at the border are very difficult to verify. The work of independent reporters is limited in Belarus, and a declaration of a state of emergency on the Polish side prevents media access to the area.
Following a major wave of migration in 2015, Europe has been tightening its borders. Yet tens of thousands of people each year embark on dangerous land and sea voyages that are sometimes fatal.
Since the summer, thousands of migrants and asylum seekers have been drawn into what appeared to be a new, easier entry route to Europe via Belarus.
Brussels accuses Lukashenko of creating an artificial route to take revenge on the bloc for the sanctions imposed on his regime after his controversial re-election in 2020 and the harsh repression after internal dissent.
The restrictions were tightened after, in May, a passenger plane traveling from Greece to Lithuania was diverted by Belarus to Minsk, where the authorities arrested dissident journalist Raman Pratasevich. The EU called the action an air piracy, banned Belarusian airlines in its airspace and reduced imports of their main products, including petroleum derivatives and potash, an ingredient for fertilizers.
An irate Lukashenko responded by announcing that he would cease to abide by immigration agreements as community sanctions deprived his government of funds necessary to stem migrant flows. The planes with migrants from Syria, Iraq and other nations then began arriving in Belarus.
Associated Press journalist Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this report.