The World Today for September 08, 2021
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Lithuania is building a 315-mile-long fence on its southern border. The structure has two functions: keeping refugees and asylum seekers out and snubbing Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, whom Lithuanian leaders say is trying to foist the unfortunate migrants on them in retaliation for sanctions, reported Reuters.
For example, a group of Afghan migrants who fled before the Taliban reasserted control of their country has been stuck on the Belarusian-Poland border for a few weeks. Belarus gave them visas so they could reach the European Union. But Poland refuses to grant them entry and Belarus won’t let them turn around. They do not have “easy access” to food, water or facilities, the New York Times wrote.
The issue has sparked a diplomatic crisis in the region involving the former Soviet republics and other nations in Central and Eastern Europe.
Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian and other regional leaders claim that Lukashenko is attempting to destabilize the European Union with a migrant crisis that would resemble the one involving a million refugees fleeing the Syrian Civil War and other conflicts in 2015.
The Lithuanians and others cite evidence like a video that recently surfaced showing Belarusian guards pushing Iraqi refugees into Lithuania. Around 4,000 migrants have entered the country this way in the past year, according to National Public Radio.
“It is increasingly clear that this situation is not simply being tolerated by Minsk but has been planned and systematically organized,” wrote Latvian Interior Minister Marija Golubeva in an opinion piece in Politico.
The EU has slapped sanctions against Lukashenko and his associates for conducting fraudulent elections last year, cracking down violently on pro-democracy activists and fabricating a bomb threat on a commercial flight, forcing it to land in Minsk where Belarusian security forces apprehended a journalist who has been critical of Lukashenko’s regime.
The situation gets more complicated. In Poland, for example, as Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called for the president to declare a state of emergency, Politico reported in a news story that the crisis could help the political fortunes of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party.
In 2015, party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski struck a xenophobic tone when Syrian and other refugees were seeking a haven in Europe, saying they carry “parasites and protozoa.” The rhetoric worked at the polls.
More recently, however, Law and Justice’s popularity has slumped due to the government’s coronavirus response, a controversial abortion law and infighting, explained University of Sussex Politics Professor Aleks Szczerbiak in the Financial Times. Defending the county from the alleged threat of more migrants on the country’s eastern border might be a gift for Morawiecki.
It certainly isn’t for those who are being used as a political weapon and who remain stuck in no man’s land.
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