Poland has nearly doubled the number of soldiers deployed to guard its border with Belarus in response to a surge in the number of asylum seekers crossing into the country.
The new deployment, announced by Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak on Tuesday, means nearly 6,000 troops operate in the border region now, a significant rise in military presence in recent days.
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On Saturday, Blaszczak had put the number of soldiers stationed in the area at more than 3,000.
“Nearly 6,000 soldiers from the 16th, 18th and 12th divisions are serving on the Polish-Belarusian border,” Blaszczak tweeted on Tuesday.
“The soldiers provide support to the Border Guard by protecting the country’s border and not allowing it to be illegally crossed.”
His announcement came after the Polish Border Guard said that there had been 612 attempts to cross the border on Monday.
State of emergency
The European Commission and Warsaw say the crossings from Belarus have been orchestrated by Minsk as a form of hybrid warfare designed to pressure the European Union over its sanctions on longtime President Alexander Lukashenko’s government. Belarus has denied this.
Poland has declared a state of emergency in the region and plans to build a wall on the border.
The Polish Parliament has also passed legislation that human rights advocates say aims to legalise refugee pushbacks across its borders in breach of international law.
As of Sunday, there had been approximately 9,600 undocumented attempts to cross the border in October, the Polish Border Guard said.
At least seven asylum seekers have died in the region since August when the border crisis erupted. Last week, Polish police discovered a body they thought to be a 24-year-old Syrian man in the area.
German authorities call for action
Human rights groups have criticised both Poland and Belarus for their treatment of asylum seekers.
There have been repeated accusations of illegal pushbacks by Polish border forces and a failure by authorities to ensure medical support, as well as adequate food and shelter.
An increasing number of asylum seekers have also been arriving in Germany, which neighbours Poland.
According to Polish media, German authorities want to temporarily restore border controls with Poland to stop the crossings.
Officials in Brandenburg, the eastern German state that houses most of the new arrivals, are calling for tougher action against Lukashenko’s government.