Poland on high alert for migrants from Belarus

The Polish government is stepping up its border security as more people try to illegally enter Poland from Belarus. The two countries share a 400-kilometer border and Poland suspects Belarus is deliberately using migrants to destabilize the area.

A spokesperson with the Polish Border Guard told NHK that not a single day passes without illegal border crossings.

Polish surveillance camera footage shows migrants crossing into Poland through a hole in a border fence.

Over 20,000 border crossings and attempted crossings took place from January through August this year — nearly 5,000 more than in all of 2022.

The Polish government suspects the surge in numbers is due to Belarus encouraging migrants to cross the border.

The border guard official says Poland has evidence proving Belarus tells migrants where they can more easily cross the border. He says Belarus is also providing wire cutters and ladders to breach the fencing.

Border chaos in 2021

In 2021, chaos erupted in some border areas when migrants from the Mideast and Africa tried to enter Poland from Belarus with the ultimate aim of reaching other destinations in the European Union.

Many migrants from the Middle East and Africa tried to enter Poland from Belarus in 2021.

At the time, Poland and other EU nations accused Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of using the migrants to destabilize the EU border. EU officials said the Lukashenko regime was carrying out the "instrumentalization of migrants" for political purposes.

The Polish government notes the current migrant crisis is similar. Last month, it decided to deploy 10,000 more soldiers to bolster border security.

Warsaw accuses Moscow of orchestrating the migrant crisis to increase tensions.

In August, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said, "We are all aware that Belarus today, in military terms, is part of the reconstructed Russian empire, so these hybrid attacks on Poland are certainly coordinated in the Kremlin."

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in July raised even more serious concerns when he said mercenaries from the Wagner Group — a private Russian militia — may be posing as migrants to enter Poland from Belarus.

He described the situation as a "hybrid attack on Polish territory."

Belarus denies the claim. Lukashenko in August said, "The leadership of Poland and the Baltic countries have accused Belarus of some mythical aggressive intentions, which we have never had and could not have. They are pumping up the hysteria over the presence of Wagner Group members."

Expert: Part of Russia's threat to Central and Eastern Europe

Jaroslaw Kociszewski, a security analyst at a Polish think tank, says the border situation between Poland and Belarus is part of the broader threat Russia poses to Central and Eastern Europe.

He says majority of Polish people believe that if Russians are allowed to win in Ukraine, they will not stop there. They will next move against the Baltic states and Poland.

He added, "They did it in Georgia in 2008, they started the war against Ukraine in 2014, then they moved to another phase in February 2022."

He also said hybrid means alone cannot conquer places, but they can weaken the opposition and enable more effective use of kinetic power.

Jaroslaw Kociszewski, a security expert at Polish think tank Stratpoints, says if Russia expands its geopolitical actions, it will probably try to further use Belarus.