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THE European Union slapped further sanctions on Belarus today as Poland deployed 15,000 soldiers to the border to keep out refugees.
The Polish troops reinforce legions of border guards and police who have been accused of illegal pushbacks — forcing asylum-seekers who make it to Polish territory back into Belarus, in some cases across barbed wire, causing serious injuries.
Other European countries have despatched troops to the border, including Britain, which sent 10 soldiers in a gesture of support for the Polish crackdown.
Thousands of people, including families with small children, are stuck in makeshift camps along the border in freezing temperatures.
At least eight have died, but the true number is unknown as Poland has declared a state of emergency and denied access to the region.
Some have reported being trapped in a no-man’s land, with attempts to return to Belarus having been knocked back from Poland being blocked by Belarusian border guards.
The European Union accuses Belarus of conducting a “hybrid attack” by giving refugees access to its eastern border, and yesterday announced that any individuals or organisations “organising or contributing to activities by the [Alexander] Lukashenko regime that facilitate illegal crossing of the EU’s external borders.”
Officials said those targeted could include airlines or other transport companies that carried the refugees to Belarus.
The tranche of sanctions “reflects the EU’s determination to stand up to the instrumentalisation of migrants for political purposes,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said, accusing Belarus of “inhuman and illegal” behaviour.
But human rights groups accuse the EU itself of turning its back on desperate refugees, with Amnesty calling on Poland to allow access to people seeking refuge.
Solidarity demonstrations calling for the EU to open the border took place in Berlin yesterday and in Frankfurt today.
An underground assistance movement has sprung up in Poland, with families local to the region smuggling food to the camps.
Sky News reported on a family who put on a green light at night to indicate to refugees that they can get hot meals and clothes there.
The Communist Party of Ukraine said the refugee crisis was the product of wars started by the US and its allies, not Belarus, and the EU should engage in dialogue with Minsk to defuse the situation.
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