The World Today for December 07, 2021
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Children are sleeping in the woods on the border between Belarus and Poland. Many haven’t eaten in days. Instances of hypothermia are increasing, prompting the United Nations and humanitarian organizations to scale up aid amid a rising death count.
The children, their parents and others had come from their homes in the Middle East after hearing that they could easily enter the European Union through the former Soviet republic of Belarus, the last dictatorship in Europe. Some paid smugglers more than $3,000 to bring them from Turkey to the Polish border where they then hoped to continue to Germany where they planned to seek asylum, Reuters wrote.
Instead, they fell into limbo, becoming pawns in a geopolitical battle between East and West, the Washington Post explained in a story that contained moving photos of migrants in the cold forests of Central and Eastern Europe.
Poland denied the migrants’ entry or, if they slipped into the country, shipped them back across the border to Belarus. Polish and European leaders contend that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is seeking to destabilize the EU by allowing the migrants to transit his country on their way to Europe, reported the New York Times.
Ostensibly, Lukashenko orchestrated the border crisis in retaliation for the EU imposing sanctions on Belarus after the president forced a commercial airliner to land in Minsk and ordered the arrest of a Belarusian dissident journalist and his girlfriend.
But there’s more to this conflict.
Europe is allegedly a shining beacon of democracy, law and order and prosperity in the world. But Poland’s ruling conservative Law and Justice Party, which has opposed increased immigration since the influx of Syrians and others into the EU started increasing in 2015, doesn’t want to accept the migrants.
As Dalhousie University researchers argued in the Conversation, Lukashenko’s gambit has exposed the hypocrisy of Europe’s aspirations of upholding human rights as well as the bloc’s divisions over how to handle migrants who would increase the number of minorities in EU member states.
The EU, for example, has proposed changing its laws to allow Poland and others to hold migrants seeking asylum for 16 weeks rather than the current four-week limit, the Guardian reported.
The stalemate hasn’t necessarily benefitted Lukashenko, however. He now has thousands of refugees stranded in his country. Hundreds were recently repatriated, Al Jazeera wrote. But many don’t want to return home, the Washington Post added. Belarus has moved some migrants to a warehouse, suggesting they’ll be staying a while.
If you’ve been living in war-torn Syria or Iraq, maybe a European autocracy is not so bad, especially if the promise of democratic Europe turns out to be false.
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