Hundreds of migrants camped out overnight in Belarus near Poland’s border in freezing temperatures as officials warn tension could increase in coming days.
Poland has warned that an unprecedented wave of migrants trying to illegally enter the country from Belarus threatens the security of the entire European Union.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki issued the warning after visiting the border, where hundreds of migrants camped out in freezing overnight temperatures, on Tuesday.
"Sealing the Polish border is our national interest. But today the stability and security of the entire EU is at stake," Morawiecki tweeted.
"This hybrid attack of (Belarusian President Alexander) Lukashenko’s regime is aimed at all of us. We will not be intimidated and will defend peace in Europe with our partners from NATO and EU."
Belarus denied the charges that it was coordinating the attempted crossings.
The Belarusian defence ministry called the allegations "unfounded and unsubstantiated" and accused Poland of "deliberately" escalating tensions.
"We would like to warn the Polish side in advance against any provocations directed against the Republic of Belarus to justify illegal use of force against disadvantaged, unarmed people, among whom there are many children and women," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
Sealing the polish border is our national interest. But today the stability and security of the entire EU is at stake. This hybrid attack of Lukashenko’s regime is aimed at all of us. We will not be intimidated and will defend peace in Europe with our partners from NATO and EU.— Mateusz Morawiecki (@MorawieckiM) November 9, 2021
Migrants camp out
Polish authorities shut an official border crossing with Belarus at 0600 GMT on Tuesday near where thousands of migrants tried to push through the day before.
Poland's Border Guard told Reuters that about 800 people were camped out on the Belarusian side of the fence, part of a group of up to 4,000 migrants there and in nearby forests.
A spokesman for Poland's special services said estimates showed there could be up to 12,000 migrants in Belarus.
Poland said it had deployed additional soldiers, border guards and police, while neighbouring Lithuania said it might introduce a state of emergency on its border with Belarus.
Polish police said on Twitter on Tuesday that the night was calm, although a rock was thrown at a police car, after the Monday confrontation.
A Polish official said tension could increase in coming days and additional international help could be accepted if that were the case.
European Union ambassadors at the United Nations are expected to meet to discuss the tension on Tuesday, the PAP news agency reported.
The Belarusian state news agency Belta quoted the interior minister as saying that no migrants had broken the law.
PM @MorawieckiM and Minister of @Poland_MOD @mblaszczak visited the Polish-Belarusian border. Poland defends the tightness of the eastern border of the European Union thanks to the dedicated service of Soldiers, Policemen, Border Guards and Special Services. pic.twitter.com/5FRVxYjA4f— Chancellery of the Prime Minister of Poland (@PremierRP_en) November 9, 2021