Migrant crisis in Belarus: reasons, dangers, solutions. IPN debate

The situation on the border between Belarus and Poland and also between Belarus and other states has been tense for a period so that the high temperature is felt hundreds or even thousands of kilometers away. The people are therefore concerned that the situation will degenerate into a large-scale conflict, including a military one. The Belarus migrant crisis, its visible and hidden reasons and goals, the immediate and future dangers and possible solutions to this challenge confronting the countries of the region and the whole Europe were discussed by the experts invited to a public debate staged by IPN News Agency.
According to IPN’s senior contributor Dionis Cenușa, a political scientist, researcher at the Institute of Political Science at Justus Liebig University in Germany, said the migrant crisis implies the subjects of the crisis – the Belarusian authorities and the migrants that are transported to Belarus in an organized way, on the one hand, and the countries whose borders the migrants try to illegally cross - Poland, Lithuania and Latvia - which have common borders with Belarus. These countries are EU member states and also NATO member countries. The migrant crisis is not something new for the EU. The last considerable migrant crisis occurred in 2015 and was primarily caused by the situation in Syria. Most of the migrants who in 2015 tried to find shelter and support in the EU were Syrian refugees. They were accepted as refugees.

The migrant crisis this year, on the border of the EU member states, is slightly different. Some of the European experts consider, and there are empirical data proving this, that this crisis is artificially caused by concrete actions staged by the authorities in Minsk with the aim of exerting pressure on the EU and the states from the neighborhood. This didn’t happen in 2015, when the crisis was more natural in character. The people left home because the situation in Syria was extremely difficult. The current crisis continues, but oscillates between a humanitarian crisis and the risks of military altercations and the situation will worsen depending on how the Belarusian authorities act, what position is adopted by Belarus, if the EU and NATO show solidarity with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania and what the weather will be like as it is growing colder and the migrants cannot live in camps. They need safe and heated places with warm food. According to the data presented by Belarus, about 25% of the migrants are women and children. This situation generates a humanitarian crisis.

Bartlomiej Zdaniuk, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Poland to the Republic of Moldova, said the discussed subject is very serious and is related to security in this part of Europe. It is every time hard to find an appropriate name for crises. “The word “crisis” has a broader meaning, but the question is if we really face a crisis or something else? In different speeches of representatives of Poland, they used the expression “hybrid war”, which I consider much more appropriate. It is a hybrid attack on our independence staged by a state that has used the possibilities of action to achieve particular goals. This is not something accidental, spontaneous,” said the ambassador.

He noted that it is an organized effort in which the people who look for better living conditions have to suffer. This is not something wanted, but the law and procedures when crossing the borders should not be violated. Poland cannot open up the boarders for a number of reasons as this would mean that the law is not equal for everyone as some should obey it, while others should not. Each state should know who enters its territory. Each person who enters is checked. The ambassadors and Presidents are all checked when they enter another state and present the passport. Poland is very much concerned about what is going on, about the wish to achieve particular goals by ugly methods, by using human lives.

Marko Shevchenko, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Republic of Moldova, agreed that the current crisis is an artificial one and it is rather a hybrid attack. The more visible involvement of the official or semiofficial authorities of Belarus is an element that makes this process different from others. The border zone always had a special regime, including at the times of the USSR. The authorities in Belarus created conditions for the migrants to be able to stay in the border zone for so long, providing these with food and other necessity things. This moment makes the current migrant crisis different from the similar crises witnessed the previous years.

In connection with the hybrid attack related to migrants, the ambassador reminded of the gas supply crisis, the concentration of forces along the borders of the Russian Federation, including in “the temporarily occupied Crimea”, and of other gestures and events of the past few months. These all had a general effect that can be described as ‘creation of an atmosphere of chaos’ and swift decisions should be taken or more serious mistakes will be witnessed later. This process benefits the one that prepares and implements the plan of the hybrid attack that is part of a long series of such actions. The denouement is only being panned and it is interesting to see who the beneficiary of this situation is.

The public debate entitled “Migrant Crisis in Belarus: reasons, dangers, solutions” is the 214th installment of the series “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. The IPN’s project is implemented with the assistance of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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