Children trapped in Belarus-Poland border crisis face bitter nights without shelter

Belarusian border officials told CNN on Friday that of the estimated 2,000 people crossing the Brzeggi-Kuznica border that separates Belarus from Poland, 200 are children and 600 are women. Some of them are only children or children.

Migrants – most of whom are from the Middle East and Asia – are trying to illegally cross into Poland and from there to other European countries, notably Germany, in search of a better life.

Some lucky people have small tents; Others have built rough shelters around them with branches and branches of coniferous trees. Behind them is the forest; They were patrolled by Polish police, border guards and soldiers in front of razor wire fences to keep them out.

Some have been waiting for weeks to try to cross the border and anger and frustration is building in the air. Some migrants have already died in the cold; Hypothermia is a real risk,

Twenty-eight-year-old mother Shoksan Bapir Hussein said she had left Iraqi Kurdistan on a trip with her husband and four-year-old son, Azi Ali Zader, as the boy needed surgery for a back condition. He said that Ajhi, who has sprained his legs, cannot walk.

When asked why Azi did not undergo surgery in Kurdistan, his mother replied: “Because not very good and maybe the operation failed … the doctor told me that the operation is very good in Germany.”

The CNN crew, which was taken to the conflict camp by Belarusian authorities on Friday and Saturday, saw minimal infrastructure to support the thousands gathered there, only two small water tanks and no toilet facilities. Was.

The Belarusian Red Cross is delivering food and water but migrants who spoke to CNN said deliveries were inadequate and uncertain. There’s hardly enough to keep people already here alive — and Belarusian state border officials estimated the number of people in the border area would rise to 5,000 within a week.

As desperate men scrambled to get firewood, logs for seating and other supplies from aid trucks, armed Belarusian forces tried to push them back. Crowds around one such truck carrying water were forced to kneel on the cold ground before some were allowed to collect the bottles.

“I’m hungry, I’m hungry,” said a young girl in English.

Parents Ahmed and Alla travel to Iraqi Kurdistan with their 15-year-old daughter Reza (centre) in search of a better life in Europe.

Parents Ahmed and Ala, along with their 15-year-old daughter Reza, told CNN that they had come from Iraqi Kurdistan in search of a better life in Europe. They were there for seven nights, he said, and there is still hope that they will make it to Europe.

Another man, who gave his name only Binar, said he had paid $2,000 to travel through Iraqi Kurdistan. “Our people want to go to Germany,” he said.

Western leaders have accused Belarus of creating a migrant crisis on the EU’s eastern border as retaliation for sanctions over human rights abuses.

President Alexander Lukashenko’s government has repeatedly denied such claims, instead blaming the West for the crossing and poor treatment of migrants.

Russia, Belarus’ largest political and economic partner, continues to defend Minsk over its handling of the border crisis, while denies any involvement in it.

President Vladimir Putin said in an interview broadcast by the TV channel Russia-1 on Sunday that Russia is “ready to help in every possible way, of course, something here will depend on us,” state news agency TASS reported.

Putin also laid responsibility for the crisis at the EU’s doorstep, accusing it of creating conditions by causing an influx of migrants. “And now they’re looking for someone to blame, in order to absolve themselves of responsibility for what happened,” he said, according to TASS.

Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski on Saturday called the worsening situation an “attack on the entire European Union using an artificially created migration crisis”.

Belarusian Foreign Minister Vladimir Meki and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell spoke by telephone on Sunday, the Belarusian foreign ministry said. “Vladimir Meki informed his interlocutor about the steps taken by Belarus to reduce the flow of migrants from Asia, Africa and the Middle East,” the ministry statement said, as well as the provision of humanitarian aid. Told.

Borrell told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche that on Monday the EU foreign minister would expand sanctions on Belarus, including airlines and travel agencies involved in bringing migrants to the Belarus-Poland border. He told the newspaper that 30 Belarusian officials involved in the crisis could also be banned.

Poland: Army ‘on standby’

Meanwhile, Belarus officials insist they are doing what they can to support those stranded in the border region.

“The situation in the refugee camp on the Belarusian-Polish border remains difficult, nevertheless, the Belarusian side does everything to provide people and especially children with everything they need,” the Belarusian State Border Committee said in a statement on Saturday. Has been doing.”

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“All measures are being taken to provide assistance to the refugees. The Border Service ensures the necessary arrangement and security of the state border.”

Poland has barred journalists and international observers from entering the border area, making it difficult to assess the status of the Polish side of the fence. But still the tension is showing no signs of abating.

The Polish Border Guard claimed on Sunday that dozens of migrants with the help of Belarusian security forces were making a “massive attempt to breach” the Polish border.

“Some tents are starting to disappear. Foreigners get instruction, equipment and gas from Belarusian services. You can see the Belarusian side getting ready today for a major cross-border effort. Our military is ready for action. ,” the border guard tweeted.

Polish officials also reported seeing more groups of armed Belarusian officers and growing uproar among migrants. Belarus State TV, ATN reported that a group of about 100 or more refugees were on their way to the migrant camp.

The Polish Ministry of National Defense tweeted earlier on Sunday that its forces were placed “on standby” in the Kuznica border area.

Smoky fires fill the forest on the Belarus-Poland border as people want to stay warm.

Late on Saturday, Poland sent a mass SMS message to phones in the region, warning that the Polish border was not well guarded or that migrants would be allowed to pass through Germany, This is “complete lie and bullshit.” Another SMS message read, in part: “Polish border is sealed. BLR officers lied to you. Go back to Minsk!”

The messages included a link to a Polish government website with a more broad and blunt message, warning that any attempt to storm the border could lead to “dangerous developments”.

With the United States accusing Russia of military build-up on the prospect of a wider geopolitical crisis, the show of force manifesting across the region continues to test a fragile political system.

Neighboring Ukraine is also stepping up security, announcing Thursday that it would conduct military exercises with some 8,500 troops and 15 helicopters in the area near its borders with Poland and Belarus to counter a potential migrant crisis.

As long as the international standoff continues, those trapped between Polish security forces in front and Belarusian forces behind will have little but hope and smoldering fire to keep them going.

CNN’s Antonia Mortensen and Katharina Krebs contributed to this report.