Attempts by migrants to cross into Poland from Belarus continued overnight, although in smaller numbers and smaller groups, Polish authorities said on Friday, a day after Belarus cleared the main camps where people from the Middle East had huddled at the border.
Thursday’s clearing of the camp, and the first repatriation flight to Iraq in months, appeared to signal a change of tack by Minsk that could help calm a crisis that has spiralled in recent weeks into a major East-West confrontation.
But the European Union rejected a proposal by Minsk that it take in 2,000 migrants, making clear the dispute was not yet resolved.
Poland’s defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak told private broadcaster Polsat there were still attempts to cross after the camp was cleared, but in smaller groups than before when hundreds would sometimes try to push through the fence at once.
Poland’s Border Guard said in a tweet that there had been 250 crossing attempts over the past day, half as many as the day before. They did not specify how many had taken place after the camps were cleared on Thursday afternoon.
European countries accuse Belarus of deliberately flying in thousands of migrants from the Middle East and pushing them to cross the border illegally. Belarus, backed by Russia, denies fomenting the crisis.
About 10 migrants are believed to have died camping in the woods near the border.
The step by Minsk to move them on Thursday to a giant warehouse – where hundreds, including young children, could be seen resting on mattresses – eases the humanitarian emergency and means they are no longer outdoors in freezing temperatures. Lithuania’s president Gitanas Nauseda said the tough stance taken by the EU was paying off.
However, the European Commission and Germany rejected a proposal by Minsk, under which EU countries would take in 2,000 migrants now in Belarus, and 5,000 others would be sent back home. The United States accused Minsk of using the migrants as “pawns in its efforts to be disruptive”. – Reuters