Polish MPs endorse Belarus border wall amid tensions with EU over migrants

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Polish lawmakers on Friday gave the green light to build a controversial wall on the EU member’s eastern border with Belarus, in response to an unprecedented wave of migrants, mostly from the Middle East.

The wall will cost around 353 million euros ($ 407 million) and is expected to extend over 100 kilometers (60 miles) to the eastern border of the European Union.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has promised to sign emergency legislation in the coming days.

Thousands of migrants and refugees – mostly from the Middle East and Africa – have tried to cross the Polish border from Belarus since August.

The EU accuses Minsk of orchestrating the wave of migrants in retaliation for sanctions against President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime for its crackdown on opponents.

Poland responded to the unprecedented influx by sending thousands of troops to the border and enforcing a state of emergency there, as well as hastily building a wire fence.

Warsaw has drawn strong criticism for its uncompromising approach to the crisis which has seen guards regularly pushing migrants and refugees back to the border. Non-governmental organizations have warned of increasingly dangerous conditions.

Poland was one of 12 member states that have asked the EU to pay for border “barriers” to prevent migrants from entering, but last week EU chief Ursula von der Leyen said says no.

EU chief executive Von der Leyen said he told leaders at a summit in Brussels that there was a long-standing position “that there will be no funding for barbed wire and walls”.

Insisting that Poland is “under attack” by Belarus, Nationalist Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Thursday that the wall was essential to “protect” Poland and that Warsaw had “not asked for help from anyone” .

The Polish state of emergency, which prevents journalists and charity workers from approaching the border, has proved particularly controversial and the EU has called for “transparency”.

The United Nations has called for urgent action to save lives and avoid suffering at the EU-Belarus border, following the deaths of several asylum seekers.


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