WARSAW, Poland (AP) — A top European Union official condemned Belarus and expressed support for Poland, Lithuania and Latvia on Friday as a state of emergency took effect in areas of eastern Poland following a surge in illegal migration.
EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell, speaking at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Slovenia, said that the EU’s foreign ministers “stand in solidarity with Lithuania, Latvia and Poland and we are ready to take all measures to support them if the situation continues deteriorating.”
He also said that they deplored that Lukashenko’s regime has “cynically” used “migrants and refugees to artificially create pressure on our Eastern borders.”
“We said that when we had some migrant pressure on the Spanish border, we said ‘the Spanish border with Morocco is a European border’. Now it is time to say that the borders of Lithuania and Poland, on the Eastern part of Europe, are also the borders of Europe,” Borrell said.
Poland declared the state of emergency after thousands of migrants from Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere tried to illegally cross into the country from Belarus in recent weeks.
Poland and the Baltic states argue that Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko is waging a “hybrid war” against their countries — EU nations that border Belarus — in revenge for EU sanctions.
All three nations have reinforced their borders and Lithuania and Latvia also declared states of emergency this summer.
Meanwhile, human rights officials have been voicing concern about a group of 32 Afghans stuck for more than three weeks on the Poland-Belarus border.
Polish officials said the state of emergency was needed to halt migration and prevent provocations following a recent protest at the border that involved 13 activists trying to cut a new razor wire barrier. They also cited possible risks linked to Russian military exercises beginning later this month that will also include elements in Belarus.
Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration