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EU executive summons Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian ambassadors over Belarus border crisis

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By Josephine Joly  & Shona Murray
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European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson talks to media before EU Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg, on October 8, 2021.
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson talks to media before EU Justice and Home Affairs Council in Luxembourg, on October 8, 2021.   -   Copyright  ARIS OIKONOMOU / AFP

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson has called for an emergency meeting with the ambassadors of Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia on the worsening Belarus border crisis.

Johansson questioned Poland's treatment of migrants attempting to cross its border from Belarus after Polish police found the body of a Syrian migrant near the border on Wednesday.

Bialystok police spokesman Tomasz Krupa said Thursday a police helicopter spotted the man's body in a field.

At least six other migrants have died since August, according to reports from Amnesty International, the European Commission, and other NGOs.

Warsaw is accused of using a heavy-handed response to the crisis, including the pushback of asylum seekers.

They're out, essentially exposed to the elements with no humanitarian access whatsoever. The situation is really appalling.
Shona Murray
Euronews Brussels

"Another person died today. There are pregnant women there. They have no access to water, to shelter, to food. It's in the middle of October, and nighttime is extremely cold. They're out, essentially exposed to the elements with no humanitarian access whatsoever. The situation is really appalling," Euronews correspondent Shona Murray said in Brussels.

Sources at the European Commission have told Euronews that Poland's position is extremely hardline on this issue.

Polish authorities have still not allowed volunteers to go and give migrants some food or water so far.

The crisis is now in the hands of the European Union, but Johansson said that no meeting has been confirmed yet.

"It's extremely difficult. And we know that the situation has been orchestrated from the Belarussian side by Lukashenko. But at the same time, the Polish, Latvians, and Lithuanians have a responsibility under international law, but also basic humanitarian responsibility, to do something for these people," our correspondent added.

Poland enacted a state of emergency on September 2 in response to an influx of migrants crossing the border.

The order was supposed to expire in early October, but it was extended until the end of November by the Polish Parliament on September 30.

Amnesty International deputy director Massimo Moretti said he does not believe the state of emergency declared by the Polish government is warranted.

"A state of emergency needs to meet certain criteria that are not met in this case. And basically, this has prevented these persons from seeking asylum in Poland because they changed the laws", he told Euronews. "So basically this action that we're seeing is against international law because it's preventing people from seeking asylum."