Border Crisis in Belarus

November 16, 2021


Some call it a humanitarian crisis; others say its a security threat. Appeals for asylum grow – as does the fear of deportation.
Familiar storylines on the seams of two nations.
Europe's latest border crisis.

What Is Going On:

  • A buildup of thousands of people along the border of Belarus and Poland – with more potentially arriving.
  • Many have traveled from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan in hopes of entering the European Union.
  • General conditions (and weather) continue to worsen; tensions continue to rise between the people, Polish/Belarus authorities.
  • At least 11 people have died in recent weeks, according to latest reports.

"Hybrid War"

Belarus – a long-time Russian ally – has facilitated people gathering at the border it shares with Poland, accusing Poland of violating international standards by not allowing these individuals to appeal for asylum.

Poland – a member of NATO (an international defense alliance) as well as the European Union – accuses Belarus of creating a humanitarian crisis that amounts to a national security threat.

“I would rather die here in the cold than go back to Iraq.”

32-year-old Rekar Hamid, an Iraqi Kurd, who traveled with his wife and two-year-old son to the border of Belarus/Poland (or what’s described as “the edge of the E.U.” in The New York Times). Like thousands of others, he’s stuck in worsening, freezing, squalid conditions, as neither country wants to take in those in similar situations to Hamid.

Important Context:

  • Tension continues to build between Belarus/Russia and the European Union.
  • Belarus and Russia are holding military drills near the border with Poland; Poland has moved its military to defend the border.
  • The E.U. sanctioned Belarus after the govt. illegally diverted a Ryanair flight, alleging a (fake) hijacking, in order to arrest a journalist critical of the current president.
  • Separately, Russia continues a military buildup along its border with Ukraine, raising concerns of an invasion.

The Economist reports the crisis at the border as a “concoction” of the Belarusian government – alleging the government has essentially recruited people from Iraq for a fee, flown them on the government’s state-owned airlines, and led them to the border – in an attempt to create a divisive crisis within the European Union. Instead, it looks like the E.U. remains united in sanctioning Belarus.

Cold and Marooned in a Police State as Desperation Takes Hold (New York Times)

Poland uses water cannons against migrants at Belarus border (Associated Press)

EU slaps new sanctions on Belarus as NATO warns Russia over military buildup (CNN)

A scheme to use migrants to split the EU is likely to backfire (The Economist)

by Jenna Lee,