World Iraqi baby buried as death toll in EU-Belarus crisis grows
Poland Closes Border Checkpoint as Tensions With Belarus Escalate Over Migration Policies
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has encouraged migrants to illegally enter bordering European Union nations. For months, thousands of migrants have attempted to illegally enter Poland, many getting stuck in a swampy forested area and pushed back and forth by Polish and Belarusian forces.According to Major Katarzyna Zdanowicz from the region's border guards, about 3,000-4,000 migrants were along the border, including 800 in the vicinity of a large makeshift camp.U.N.
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.
How Minsk became a mecca for migrants travelling as tourists
How Minsk became a mecca for migrants travelling as touristsSULAIMANIYA, Iraq/HAJNOWKA, Poland (Reuters) - When Kamaran Mohammed travelled with his wife and three children to the Belarus capital Minsk last month from their home in northern Iraq, they went as tourists.
“Another victim,” said Bazarewicz, who led prayers for the first victim of the migration, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee, nine days ago.
“We thought this would only happen once but now this sector gets bigger and bigger,” he said, standing among four simple burial mounds, each surrounded by stones and covered with pine branches.
Belarus-Poland border: They gave up everything to get to Europe. Now hundreds are being sent home
Iraqi migrants who traveled to Belarus in recent weeks, spending their life savings on airfare and waiting in limbo in freezing makeshift camps in the hopes of crossing into Europe, are now being sent back home. © MAXIM GUCHEK/BELTA/AFP via Getty Images Migrants, including children, shout across the razor wire fence at the Bruzgi-Kuznica border crossing on Wednesday. The Iraqi government on Thursday will begin to repatriate citizens who requested to leave after a monthslong standoff on the Belarus-Poland border left them defeated, their dreams of a new life dashed.
All four victims now rest together on the outer edge of Poland’s largest Muslim cemetery, belong to a community of Tatars who have inhabited the forested area in eastern Poland for centuries.
“They will rest among their Tatar brothers,” he said.
There is no exact toll among the migrants and refugees who since the summer have traveled to Belarus and then sought to cross into Poland, Lithuania or Latvia, the three countries bordering the EU. Yet there is no doubt that the death toll is rising.
The EU considers the migration an element of hybrid warfare waged by the authoritarian government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Poland has ordered a state of emergency along its border to stop migrants from coming through, and to keep family — or smugglers — from approaching the border to facilitate their travel further into western Europe. Most aim to reach Germany or elsewhere in Western Europe, in some cases to be reunited with relatives already settled there.
Poland: Migrant camps along Belarus border have emptied
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish authorities said Friday there are no more migrants camping along the Belarus side of the European Union’s eastern border, but attempts at illegally crossing into the bloc’s territory are continuing and becoming more aggressive. Around 50 migrants got through a fence into Poland on Thursday, Anna Michalska, a spokeswoman for Poland’s Border Guard said. They included a family of five who said they wanted to stay and live in Poland, opening a procedure toward settlement. The others will have to return to Belarus, Michalska said. Two other large groups of migrants were prevented from entering.
As Poland has built up its military presence in the area, many migrants have become trapped in the forest, pushed back and forth between Belarusian and Polish forces, sometimes wandering in the cold, wet forest for weeks.
The Polish Border Guard agency has since September reported about 10 deaths, but they don't identify them because of EU privacy regulations. Meanwhile, humanitarian groups and Polish media have reported more cases. But it's difficult to verify those deaths, and sometimes it's not clear if the victims named in the media are the same or difficult cases given by the Border Guard.
It's also known that there have been deaths on the Belarusian side, with bodies returned to Iraq for burial. But the Minsk authorities there haven't reported how many.
Poland's PM to hold talks in Europe on border crisis
WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Saturday he is to hold a series of talks in Europe about the pressure of migrants on the European Union’s border with Belarus, a crisis that he expects will continue. Morawiecki said he was meeting on Sunday with his counterparts from EU members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which have also been hit by the migrant pressure in recent months, though to a lesser degree. During the week he is to travel to some other European countries, which he did not name.
An man who appeared to be a migrant from Africa was buried Monday in the Catholic cemetery of Sokolka, not far from the Muslim cemetery in Bohoniki, because a Bible was found next to his body. But since there was no absolute certainty that he was Christian, the local priest didn't attend the funeral. The only people attending the funeral were journalists.
Polish media have also reported the death of a 24-year-old Syrian Christian man whom they identified as Issa Jerjos. Issa means Jesus — one liberal Polish news outlet Oko Press reported the death with the headline: “Jesus died on the Polish border.”
Bazarewicz led the rites for a family he had never met, based on little information about them, admitting he knew little more than the fact that the mother miscarried her child in the 27th week of pregnancy, and that the family had five other children. He called in two Chechen immigrants to assist with the funeral, attended otherwise only by about three dozen journalists.
Doctor warns Iraqi Kurds: Illegal path to EU can be deadly
BIELSK PODLASKI, Poland (AP) — Dr. Arsalan Azzaddin was seeing migrants from Iraq and Syria being brought into a hospital in eastern Poland every day with hypothermia, pneumonia, broken bones and severe dehydration. So he asked a Kurdish TV channel to let him go on the news to warn people in his homeland not to attempt the dangerous journey into the European Union through the Belarus-Poland border. “I want them not to come. They could die,” Azzaddin told The Associated Press on Monday.
Bazarewicz says it's his duty as a Muslim to ensure that other Muslims who have perished on Polish soil far from their homelands be buried with the proper religious rites. In Islam, a fetus after four months is considered a human being and buried as one, he explained.
The white casket trimmed in lace of the unborn infant — given the name Halikari Dhaker and whose date of death is Nov. 14 — was so small it was carried to the grave by a single man before it was lowered with ropes.
“These people have left their countries, not to travel around or see beautiful places, though Poland is beautiful, but to find a better life," he said. "They were manipulated and they’ve suffered — which is not their fault.”
Follow all AP stories about global migration at
Iraqi Infant Buried Without His Parents Present Latest Death in Poland-Belarus Standoff .
An unborn Iraqi child was buried in Poland's largest cemetery Tuesday, the latest in the unknown death toll of the migrant crisis along the border.Aleksander Ali Bazarewicz, a Polish imam, recited prayers Tuesday over the infant's tiny white casket. According to the Associated Press, the mother miscarried and is hospitalized in serious condition, and the father was at the refugee center and did not attend the funeral.