Poland warned on Wednesday that the crisis along the border with Belarus could last for months or even years – even as some of the several thousand migrants stranded on the European Union’s eastern frontier were removed by bus in a possible de-escalation.
Tensions spiked Tuesday when Polish forces fired tear gas and used water cannons on small groups of migrants who hurled stones at them across the barbed-wire border fence.
Nine officers, a border guard and a soldier were reportedly hurt in the clashes during the migration and political border crisis in which the lives of thousands of migrants are at stake.
“We have to be prepared that this situation on the Belarusian border won’t settle swiftly, we have to be prepared for months — I hope not years,” Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told Radio Jedynka on Wednesday, Agence France-Presse reported.
He said attempts to cross the border had continued overnight, adding that migrants had used the same “method of attacking the Polish border” as seen at the Bruzgi-Kuznica crossing a day earlier.
“The public attention focused on what happened in Kuznica, while smaller groups of migrants tried to break through the Polish border in other sections, also at night,” Blaszczak told the outlet.
The Border Guard said it had detected 161 illegal crossing attempts Tuesday, including two “forceful” ones.
On Tuesday evening, Belarusian state news agency BELTA reported that border guards had begun moving some migrants to a reception center away from the border, Reuters reported.
Polish Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wasik said he had received information that migrants were boarding buses provided by Belarus and leaving the area.
“The campsite near Kuznica is slowly emptying,” Wasik said.
The Border Guard posted video on Twitter showing migrants with bags and backpacks being directed by Belarusian forces away from the border, though it was unclear where they were being taken.
Border Guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska said some of the migrants were seen taking wooden logs with them, raising questions about whether they might be moved to another spot along the border.
The thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, have been congregating at the border in what the West says is a crisis engineered by Belarus to try to divide the EU and hit back against sanctions.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and his main ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin, have rejected the accusations and assailed the EU for not taking in the migrants.
Lukashenko, who has crushed opposition to his rule over nearly three decades in power, discussed the crisis Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov welcomed the talks saying on Wednesday that it was “very important that contact has been made between representatives of the EU and the leadership of Belarus.”
Yuri Karayev, an aide to Lukashenko, said that 1,100 migrants had already been moved from the area near the crossing known as “the jungle” to a nearby warehouse, while about 800 remained along the border, The New York Times reported.
Asked whether they wanted to completely shut down the encampments, he told the paper, “That is our plan, that is our hope.
Meanwhile, many migrants expressed uncertainty about what would happen next.
Balia Ahmed, 31, who was in the warehouse with her husband and their two kids, aged 8 and 10, said she was very nervous of being deported, but felt she had no other choice but to move there.
“My kids were freezing and about to die,” she told The Times.
With Post Wires