Combatting hybrid attack: EU member states install fence on external borders
Poland and Lithuania are facing an unprecedented influx of illegal immigration fuelled by Belarus. How the countries are tackling the issue?
A long time ago, the ancient Romans build a network of limites, the fortified boundaries. It seems that the practice has been undergoing a revival this summer. On the one hand, Greece completed the installation of the 40-kilometre-long fence along the border with Turkey. The Balkan country is trying to prevent the possible migrant influx similar to that that occurred in 2015.
On the other hand, Poland and Lithuania are dealing not with preventive measures but real issues that required the mobilisation of more and more border guards. In this part of Europe, there has been noting a growing influx of illegal immigrants that cross the border from the Belarusian side. After the incident with the Ryanair Flight 4978, the disputed regime of Alexander Lukashenko turned a blind eye and began not to stop illegal migrants on its western boundaries. As a result, the two countries faced an uncontrolled stream of people and followed the Greek example by starting to install their own fences.
Poland deploys troops
For Poland, the current week has become crucial in terms of border policy as the country’s government declared its intention to double the number of troops along the Belarusian border. “In a few days, a total of about 2,000 soldiers will assist in patrolling this border,” announced Mateusz Morawiecki, the Prime Minister of Poland, during his Wednesday’s (25 August) visit to the eastern frontier. He also called the current border policy of Belarus towards its western neighbours ‘a hybrid attack on Poland’.
Two days before, a similar estimation was given by Mariusz Błaszczak, minister of national defence. “We are dealing with a hybrid war, with an attack on Poland. It is an attempt to create a migration crisis. Europe saw what this entails in 2015 when the Balkan route was launched. Now it is an attempt to start the trail through Poland,” said the minister. According to the official statistics, around 2,000 illegal immigrants have tried to enter Poland since early August. Almost 1,200 people were prevented from their intention while about 800 people, mostly from Iraq, were captured on the Polish side.
Besides deploying the additional troops, Poland’s government decided to build the 2.5-metre high barbed wire fence on the boundary with Belarus. The works started earlier this month. Currently, more than 100 kilometres of the state border were equipped with barbed wire. Within the next stage, 50 kilometres of the frontier will get the fence. In total, the border between Poland and Belarus has a length of 416 kilometres.
External border of Lithuania
A similar situation is on the border between Belarus and Lithuania. From the year’s beginning up to early August, more than 4,100 migrants, also mostly Iraq, tried to enter the Baltic state illegally. The figure shows an increase in 55 times compared to the entire 2020 when only 81 ‘travellers’ were captures. In early July Lithuania declared a state of emergency and strengthened the border patrol. Meanwhile, the situation has not enhanced. Almost every day, the State Border Guard Service is detecting groups of people attempting to cross the boundary line. More than 100 illegal migrants are being prevented from entering Lithuania. For instance, over 150 people were kept from illegal border crossing on 25 August.
Lithuania also estimates the Belarusian frontier policy as a hybrid attack. “It is obvious that a hybrid war is being waged against Lithuania, and illegal migration is one of the means,” noted Agne Bilotaite, the country’s minister for the interior. To prevent illegal migrants from entering its territory, Lithuania is also installing the barbed wire fence. The works are going on the 30-kilometre section. In total, the government intends to equip 550 of around 680 kilometres of the Belarusian border with barbed wire by September 2022. However, it is not clear that this will completely tackle the issue but Agne Bilotaite hopes for better: “If the situation is difficult, if it gets worse, we have a plan A, B and C. We are ready for possible challenges”.
Are you interested to know more about the other developments on the border between Poland and Belarus? IntermodalNews.pl, the Polish-speaking sister title of IntermodalNews.eu, in a partnership with the ProKolej Foundation will carry out an event dedicated to the railway border crossings. It will take place on 20-22 October in Małaszewicze, Janów Podlaski and Terespol.
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