Migrants massed at the border by Belarus: “This crisis can serve Poland in its disputes with the EU”

Tensions continue to build between the European Union (EU) and Belarus. The authoritarian Belarusian president, Alexander Lukashenko, is accused of having orchestrated the arrival of several thousand migrants to the border with Poland, since the beginning of August, in order to exert pressure and to obtain the end of the sanctions economic decisions decided against his regime, in 2020, after his brutal repression of the opposition.

These people, including children and women, make a living in difficult conditions. At night, temperatures drop below 0 ° C.

On Wednesday 10 November, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, affirmed that the EU would proceed, in response, to a “Broadening of sanctions” against Minsk, Monday, November 15, during a meeting of foreign ministers in Brussels.

Thursday November 11, on RMC and BFMTV, the French Secretary of State for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, considered that the crisis at the Polish border was a “Migratory attack” and one « test » for the EU. “We must act with firmness. We stand in solidarity with Poland (…). It is Europe that is being tested ”, did he declare.

Read also Migrant crisis: what is happening on the border between Poland and Belarus?

Matthew Tardis, researcher at the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI) and specialist in European immigration policy, analyzes the response provided by the EU since the start of this crisis. According to him, migrants are “The forgotten” of this showdown.

What is the extent and nature of the crisis playing out on the border between Poland and Belarus?

The number of people currently at the border is limited [entre 2 000 et 4 000 migrants seraient présentes entre les deux pays]. The situation has nothing to do with the one that existed in Greece in 2015, when migrants or refugees, mostly Syrians, arrived in Europe after crossing Turkey. It is not a migratory crisis which is playing out at the moment, but a political crisis between Belarus and the EU, a crisis which is constructed from scratch by Alexander Lukashenko.

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In response to the crisis, the European Union is preparing to take new sanctions against Belarus. Beyond the latter, what is the EU’s room for maneuver in this situation?

The European Commission’s room for maneuver is quite limited. Poland is sovereign over its territory to make a number of decisions relating to immigration. The country has also refused assistance from Frontex, the European border and coast guard agency.

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Migrants massed at the border by Belarus: “This crisis can serve Poland in its disputes with the EU”