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World Lukashenko and Merkel discuss Poland migrant crisis in hopes it can be stopped

04:10  18 november  2021
04:10  18 november  2021 Source:   abcnews.go.com

Migrants camp overnight at Polish border after tense day

  Migrants camp overnight at Polish border after tense day WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish police posted video early Tuesday showing a group of migrants who had camped overnight just on the far side of Poland's eastern border in Belarus. Polish riot police and coils of razor wire faced the migrants and police said the situation overnight was calm. That followed a day of heavy tensions on the border, where a large group of migrants — hundreds if not thousands of people mostly from the Middle East and encouraged by Belarus — sought to push their way into Poland. © Provided by Associated Press Migrants from the Middle East and elsewhere gather at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021.

Germany's chancellor Angela Merkel talked with Belarus' authoritarian leader, Alexander Lukashenko, on Wednesday, as part of a burst of European diplomatic efforts to end the migration crisis on the Belarusian border with Poland that Lukashenko is accused of orchestrating.

Lukashenko's office claimed that during a call Wednesday, he and Merkel had come to a "certain understanding" over the crisis and agreed to begin immediate negotiations to resolve it. In a statement, the office said the two had agreed the negotiations would also look at resolving the "refugees' wish to get to Germany."

EXPLAINER: What's behind the crisis at Belarus-Poland border

  EXPLAINER: What's behind the crisis at Belarus-Poland border Thousands of migrants have flocked to Belarus' border with Poland, hoping to get to Western Europe, and many of them are now stranded at the frontier, setting up makeshift camps as Polish security forces watch them from behind a razor-wire fence and prevent them from entering the country. A look at what led to the standoff: WHAT IS BEHIND THE CRISIS? Belarus was rocked by months of massive protests following the August 2020 election that gave authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office. The opposition and the West rejected the result as a sham.

  Lukashenko and Merkel discuss Poland migrant crisis in hopes it can be stopped © Getty Images, FILE

But Merkel's spokesperson did not confirm the same, saying only that during her call she had "underlined the need to provide humanitarian care and opportunities of return" for the migrants trapped at Belarus' border.

The call with Merkel -- the second in three days -- nonetheless raised hopes the crisis at the border may be easing, as at least 2,000 migrants remained trapped in a camp near it on Wednesday night and likely hundreds more in the surrounding forests.

Videos aired by Belarusian state media shows groups of migrants in the camp near the border dancing and cheering, supposedly following the call between Lukashenko and Merkel.

MORE: Migrants stranded at Belarus border in new standoff with Polish police

Over 2,000 migrants, mostly from the Middle East, have been stranded in a makeshift camp at the border with Poland in freezing temperatures for over a week, since Belarusian forces escorted them there in what European countries say was an escalation of a months-long campaign to use migrants weapons.

Turkey halts flights for some Mideast citizens to EU's door

  Turkey halts flights for some Mideast citizens to EU's door WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Turkey’s Civil Aviation Authority said Friday that the country is halting airline ticket sales to Iraqi, Syrian and Yemeni citizens wanting to travel to Belarus, which in recent months became a route for migrants and refugees to enter the European Union. EU leaders have put increasing pressure on airlines to stop bringing people from the Middle East to Minsk, the capital of Belarus, from where asylum-seekers seeking better lives can then travel by car to the EU's doorstep.

Lukashenko is accused of luring thousands of migrants to Belarus and funneling them to neighboring Poland and Lithuania to create a crisis on the European Union's eastern border as retaliation for its support of the pro-democracy movement that came close to toppling him last year.

Poland and Lithuania have blocked the migrants, and Belarusian border troops have prevented them from retreating, resulting in hundreds of people finding themselves trapped in the forests along the border without food or shelter, often for weeks. Several thousand are estimated to be in Belarus currently. At least 10 people have died, though activists believe the true toll is likely higher. Hundreds of migrants have been filmed in recent days in central Minsk.

Belarus' leader Alexander Lukashenko and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel are pictured in a composite file image. © Getty Images, FILE Belarus' leader Alexander Lukashenko and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel are pictured in a composite file image.

Merkel's call with Lukashenko followed violent clashes on Tuesday, when Polish border guards fired water cannons into some migrants who were throwing stones and missiles at them at a crossing point near the town of Kuznica. Poland's government, as well as some migrants in the camp, have accused Belarusian authorities of inciting the violence.

How a Manufactured Migrant Crisis Showed That Europe's Last Dictator Can Rattle the E.U.

  How a Manufactured Migrant Crisis Showed That Europe's Last Dictator Can Rattle the E.U. How a Manufactured Migrant Crisis Showed That Europe's Last Dictator Can Rattle the E.U.An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people, mostly from the Middle East, are now huddled in freezing campsite tents awaiting permission to enter the European Union because Lukashenko decided to turn men, women and children into battering rams as retaliation for E.U. sanctions and diplomatic isolation owing to his theft of last year’s presidential election; his ongoing imprisonment and torture of political opponents; and his hijacking of a European airliner earlier this year to arrest a dissident journalist who was on board.

In recent days there has been a flurry of European diplomatic activity to try to resolve the crisis. The EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, has called on Belarus' foreign minister, while Merkel and France's President Emmanuel Macron have called Lukashenko's chief backer: Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Lukashenko's office said on Wednesday Merkel had conveyed a demand from the European Union's president Ursula Von Der Leyen to allow international humanitarian organizations, including the United Nations, to begin working with the migrants.

Von Der Leyen wrote on Twitter on Wednesday: "People trapped at the border have to be repatriated." The European Commission also said that it had allocated 700,000 euros in assistance to the people trapped at the border.

Following the violence on Tuesday, Belarus has moved hundreds of migrants to a warehouse near the border. But the vast majority of the migrants remained in the makeshift camp, according to Polish authorities, living largely in the open air and huddled around camp fires.

Poland: Belarus eyes using Afghan migrants as border pawns

  Poland: Belarus eyes using Afghan migrants as border pawns VILNIUS, Lithuania (AP) — Poland’s leader on Sunday warned against more possible migrant pressures on the European Union’s border with Belarus, this time coming from Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki spoke in Vilnius following talks with Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte about ways of solving the “very difficult situation” at the borders of EU members with Belarus. He was on a one-day tour of meetings with the prime ministers of EU members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which have also been hit by the migrant pressures.

Migrants and Polish refugee charities have accused Belarusian authorities recently of manipulating migrants and spreading disinformation that they would soon be resettled to Germany and Poland.

Poland's government has said it is strongly opposed to Germany and the EU's outreach to Lukashenko over its head. Belarus' democratic opposition has also cautioned against it.

MORE: Belarus brings some migrants in from cold at Polish border

"Dancing with the dictator is dangerous," said Franak Viacorka, an aide to Belarus' main opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, after the call with Merkel was announced. "Appeasement leads to impunity. When he feels that blackmail works, and can give him what he wants, he will escalate and lead to more victims if needed. Your humanity is just a weakness for him."

Migrants aiming to cross into Poland camp near the Bruzgi-Kuznica border crossing on the Belarusian-Polish border on Nov. 17, 2021. © Maxim Guchek/Belta/AFP via Getty Images Migrants aiming to cross into Poland camp near the Bruzgi-Kuznica border crossing on the Belarusian-Polish border on Nov. 17, 2021.

Estonia's foreign minister, Eva-Maria Liimets, said on Tuesday that during the call with Merkel on Monday, Lukashenko had demanded Europe recognize him as Belarus' legitimate president and lift sanctions as conditions for ending the migrant crisis.

There was no sign on Wednesday of such a concession. Lukashenko's press office said during his call with Merkel he had not raised the issue of his legitimacy and sanctions because they were "beneath him."

Activist groups and volunteer medics have been continuing to try to reach migrants that are ill and who find themselves trapped in the forest on the Polish side. Poland's border guard released a video on Wednesday showing a large number of migrants packing up at the Kuznica camp and being marched somewhere, escorted by Belarusian border guards. It was not clear where they were being taken.

Iraqi baby buried as death toll in EU-Belarus crisis grows .
BOHONIKI, Poland (AP) — A Polish imam recited prayers Tuesday over the tiny white casket of an unborn Iraqi boy, the latest life claimed as migrants from the Middle East have tried to slip into the European Union illegally and found their path blocked by soldiers and a fast approaching winter in the forests of Poland and Belarus. After the first snow of the season fell overnight, Aleksander Ali Bazarewicz, the imam, waited in hopes that the child's father — in a refugee center and with his wife hospitalized in serious condition — would arrive. When he didn't appear, Bazarewicz proceeded to lead the funeral rites in front of an old wooden mosque and later at the graveside.

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