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Poland completes 186-kilometre border wall with Belarus after migration dispute

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By AP  with Euronews
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Polish border guards patrol the area of a newly built border wall near Kuznice.
Polish border guards patrol the area of a newly built border wall near Kuznice.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Michal Dyjuk

Poland has completed construction on a new 186-kilometre border wall in an attempt to deter migrants entering from Belarus.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and top security officials visited the border area on Thursday to mark the completion of a new 5.5-metre-high steel wall.

Poland is also set to lift a state of emergency on Friday that has blocked journalists and rights workers from entering the border region.

Morawiecki said the new border wall formed part of the country's fight against Russia.

“The first sign of the war in Ukraine was [Belarus President] Alexander Lukashenko’s attack on the Polish border,” he told a news conference.

Warsaw authorities believe the Lukashenko regime used migrants as a tool to spark tensions since 2021, which saw tens of thousands mostly from Iraqi Kurdistan attempt to enter Poland, Lithuania and Latvia from Belarus.

At least 20 people are known to have died between Belarus and Poland in freezing conditions in the last year.

'Double standards' vs 'hybrid warfare'

Human rights groups have accused Poland of a double standard by welcoming millions of Ukrainians fleeing Russia’s invasion, while also blocking mostly Asian refugees from entering via Belarus.

“If you give a lift to a refugee at the Ukrainian border you are a hero. If you do it at the Belarus border you are a smuggler and could end up in jail for eight years,” said Natalia Gebert, founder and CEO of Dom Otwarty, a Polish NGO that helps refugees.

A Human Rights Watch report this month said Poland “unlawfully, and sometimes violently, summarily pushes migrants and asylum-seekers back to Belarus, where they face serious abuses, including beatings and rape by border guards and other security forces.”

Amnesty International has also detailed serious human rights abuses.

Meanwhile, the EU Court of Justice has slammed a law introduced by Lithuania amid the migrant influx, which detains illegal immigrants and denies them the right to asylum.

The Luxembourg court said the Lithuanian law was incompatible with EU legislation and Fundamental Rights Charter.

Belarus became a new migration route to Europe after Lukashenko encouraged asylum-seekers to Minsk to facilitate their entry to the European Union.

Brussels has accused Belarus of waging "hybrid warfare" and trying to destabilise the bloc in retaliation for sanctions against Lukashenko's regime.

Poland’s government says Russia is complicit, given Lukashenko’s alliance with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"Lukashenko is the executor of the latest assault, but this assault has a sponsor who is to be found in Moscow, and this sponsor is President Putin," Morawiecki said during an emergency debate in the Polish parliament in November.