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Migrants Still Trying To Force Entry Into Poland After Belarus Clears Camps.

Polish authorities say migrants tried to cross the border from Belarus overnight -- but in smaller numbers -- after Belarus cleared some camps where people had gathered in freezing temperatures and as hundreds of migrants were flown back to Iraq.

The developments appeared to signal an easing of a weeks-long crisis on the European Union’s eastern border, but the dispute was not yet resolved as the bloc rejected Minsk’s proposal that it take in 2,000 migrants.

The EU accuses Belarusian strongman Alyaksandr Lukashenka of flying in migrants and funneling them to the borders of member states Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania to retaliate for sanctions the bloc imposed over a sweeping crackdown since last year’s disputed presidential election.

The August 2020 vote saw Lukashenka claim victory despite accusations from the opposition and the West that the vote was rigged.

Poland's Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak told private broadcaster Polsat on November 19 that there were still attempts to cross the border after the camps were cleared the previous day, but in smaller groups than before, when hundreds would sometimes try to push through the fence at once.

According to Poland's Border Guards, there had been 255 crossing attempts on November 18 -- half as many as the previous day.

“Two large groups tried to cross the border by force -- one had 500 and the other 50 foreigners. The people were aggressive,” they said in a tweet, adding that 45 migrants were detained.

A spokeswoman for the force, Lieutenant Anna Michalska, told AFP that some of the migrants “threw rocks and someone also hurled tear gas at Polish officials,” while “Belarusian personnel were using lasers to blind them."

Four Polish soldiers sustained injuries that did not require hospitalization, Michalska said.

Meanwhile, Polish police posted on Twitter photos and a video of “deserted camps” along the border.

In an easing of the humanitarian emergency, Belarusian state-run media reported that around 2,000 migrants were moved into a heated logistics warehouse, where hundreds of adults and children could be seen resting on mattresses on the floor.

Around 10 migrants are believed to have died in the woods near the frontier.

And some 430 Iraqi migrants on November 18 boarded an Iraqi Airways aircraft in Minsk for the journey back home, with the Iraqi Foreign Ministry saying it planned further evacuations.

In the first repatriation flight since the crisis began, the plane stopped first in Irbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous northern Kurdish region, before flying on to Baghdad.

A flight from the Belarusian capital to Baghdad planned for November 19 had disappeared from the schedule of the Minsk airport.

A spokeswoman for Lukashenka, Natallya Eismant, said on November 18 that about 7,000 migrants were currently in the country, 2,000 of whom were in areas near the border.

Belarus wants the EU to open a “humanitarian corridor” to allow 2,000 migrants to head to Germany, while Belarusian authorities try to get the other 5,000 to return home, Eismant said.

However, the European Commission and Germany rejected the proposal by Minsk. The United States accused Belarus of using the migrants as "pawns in its efforts to be disruptive."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, and RFE/RL's Belarus Service

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