Germany sees sharp rise in migrants arriving via Belarus

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German authorities said on Wednesday that the number of migrants arriving in the country via Poland and Belarus has gone up sharply in recent months.

German federal police said more than 4,300 people illegally crossed the border from Poland this year, with most of the migrants coming from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Iran, German news agency dpa reported.

Police added that from January to July this year, 26 people travelling by the “Belarus route” arrived in Germany without authorisation. The number grew to 474 in August, 1,914 in September and 1,934 during the first 11 days of October.

Most of the newcomers were being put up at asylum reception centers in the eastern state of Brandenburg. The centres can house 3,500 people, and authorities have added tents to make space for up to 5,000.

“The situation is not dramatic, but it is tough,” Olaf Jansen, head of the foreigners’ office in the eastern German town of Eisenhuettenstadt, said. There’s concern coronavirus might spread among the new arrivals, he said.

Brussels has accused Minsk of facilitating migration through Belarus and into the European Union in retaliation for the bloc’s sanctions on Belarusian officials and entities over the August 2020 presidential election, the subsequent crackdown on demonstrations and the diversion of the Ryanair flight.

Minsk has rejected the accusations.

Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia — all EU member states neighbouring Belarus — have declared states of emergency at their border over the surge in illegal migration.

At least five people have died at the Poland-Belarus border in recent weeks after being stranded between the two countries. NGOs have accused Poland of carrying out illegal pushbacks.

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The German government announced on Wednesday that it was working on various measures to curb migration on the country’s eastern border.

“There are currently consultations with our partners, both inside Germany and abroad, about measures to prevent the illegal migration to Germany,” Interior Ministry spokesperson Steve Alter told dpa. He did not give any further details.

In Poland, the government approved a bill late Tuesday that would regulate the construction of a high barrier with motion sensors on the border with Belarus to deter people from crossing over. It’s estimated cost is 1.65 billion zlotys (€352 million). A vote by lawmakers could take place as soon as Wednesday.

Poland’s Border Guards agency said Wednesday that it registered 470 illegal border crossing attempts Tuesday, and prevented them all. The agency said that so far this month there have been 6,700 hindered attempts to cross the border, and 18,300 since the beginning of the year.

Also Wednesday, Poland’s Internal Security Agency said it had detained a Polish man suspected of secretly collaborating with Belarusian intelligence services, working against Poland’s interests.

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