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Poland issues state of emergency in two provinces over Belarus border row

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By Euronews
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Poland’s government has asked the president to declare a state of emergency along the border with Belarus as it tries to stop migrants from entering.
Poland’s government has asked the president to declare a state of emergency along the border with Belarus as it tries to stop migrants from entering.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Mateusz Wodziński, File

Poland has issued a state of emergency in two provinces near its border with Belarus.

The country has had an influx of migrants arriving at its frontier with Belarus in recent weeks, something Warsaw blames on Minsk.

The arrival of migrants prompted Poland's government to call on President Andrzej Duda to declare an emergency.

It cited the potential risk from foreign actors and the actions of protesters in Poland as rationales for the declaration.

Duda granted it on Thursday in Podlaskie and Lubelskie, both Polish provinces bordering Belarus.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International denounced the state of emergency saying it could "exacerbate the already dire situation" for migrants stuck at the border.

The organisation said there were 32 Afghans including four women, 27 men and a 15-year-old girl, who were pushed back from Poland and have "been held there without adequate food and clean water for over three weeks."

Interior minister Mariusz Kamiński said local authorities supported the action, which he said was "in the interests of the safety of our citizens, especially the inhabitants of border towns".

Kamiński said the rules of the state of emergency, which includes suspending mass events, would mostly affect "outsiders" rather than the inhabitants of the towns.

People in the areas under the state of emergency will also have to carry an identity card on them as well.

Poland is one of many EU nations that has accused Belarus of sending migrants across the border as part of a "hybrid war" in response to sanctions.

The EU placed sanctions on Belarus following Lukashenko's disputed re-election in 2020 and subsequent crackdown on dissent.

Poland also recently welcomed exiled Olympic athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya after she fled Tokyo for fear of returning to her native Belarus.

Poland has said they will construct a fence along the border to prevent migrants from entering even as the European Court of Human Rights asked countries to help migrants trapped at their borders with Belarus.

"A state of emergency allows a state to restrict certain human rights in extreme circumstances where there is a 'threat to the life of the nation'," said Nils Muižnieks Director for Europe at Amnesty International.

"No such threat exists in Poland where the authorities are attempting to cynically exploit this power to target asylum seekers and those who support them.”