ReportageCut off from the world for ten months, the inhabitants living near the Polish-Belarusian border continue to provide assistance to the many migrants who are still trying to reach the European Union.

In eastern Poland, at the end of a dented forest path, a massive metal and concrete fence suddenly breaks through the middle of the primary forest in the village of Bialowieza, regularly traversed by military convoys. The 5.5-meter-tall device, topped with barbed wire, spans 187 of the 418-kilometer border shared with Belarus.

Validated by the Polish parliament in October 2021, the construction was officially completed on June 30. This is how the national conservatives in power in Warsaw wanted to respond to what they describe “hybrid war”, orchestrated last summer by the Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. In 2021, Polish border guards recorded nearly 40,000 attempts to irregularly cross the Polish-Belarusian border, a figure that rose to 129 in 2020.

Pawel Miklasz, mayor of Kuznica, near the Polish-Belarusian border, in his office on 5 July.
Puszcza Bialowieza National Park, Poland on July 5th.

These asylum seekers from the Middle East and Africa have often been subject to repeated pushbacks at the Belarusian border. More than a dozen of them also died in the forests of Podlasie. “They weren’t migrants, they were part of Lushakenko and Putin’s provocation”Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki made it clear on 30 June during the official inauguration of the fence in the north of the region, in Kuznica. “The fence was expensive, of course, but it was the only way to secure this border where economic migrants were trying to cross.”says Pawel Miklasz, mayor of this city of 1,700 inhabitants.

Practice contrary to the law

In November 2021, journalists from around the world followed the arrival of several hundred Iraqis and Syrians at the Kuznica border crossing, which was immediately closed by the Polish authorities. Up to 3,000 migrants, according to Warsaw, had camped on the Belarusian side and tried to cross the border, not smoothly. “It was even more surprising that nothing had ever happened to this hermetic boundary before.”continues the building, which then evokes a “unsustainable situation” and welcomes the dispatch of military columns to the scene. Because Kuznica, like 182 municipalities along the border, found itself cut off from the world and militarized for almost ten months.

Near the newly built wall on the border between Belarus and Poland on 6 July.

From September 2021 to 1uh July 2022, only residents were allowed to move beyond the checkpoints. Exit, journalists and non-resident NGOs. A decision deemed necessary by Pawel Miklasz, who points the finger at activists “Prompting the locals to call Grupa Granica [un collectif citoyen venant en aide aux migrants coincés à la frontière] instead of reporting them to the police “. Push-backs may have been legalized by law in 2021, but several Polish courts have already ruled the practice against the law.

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