Human traffickers seek new paths after Belarusian route blocked says official

Blazej Pobozy said that if the Balkan route has recently become widely used, this is proof for us that our barrier on the Polish-Belarusian border is effective. Piotr Nowak/PAP

A Polish deputy interior minister has said that people smugglers have started looking for new routes into the European Union owing to Poland successfully blocking a route from Belarus.

Blazej Pobozy said that an apparent increase in numbers of people coming through the Balkans is evidence that a recently constructed fence on the Polish-Belarusian border had stopped people getting into Poland.

"...if the Balkan route has recently become widely used, this is proof for us that our barrier (on the Polish-Belarusian border - PAP) is effective," he told Polish public radio on Thursday. 

"If the situation did not look like as I have described it, we would be speaking now about the Belarusian route, artificially created by (the Russian and Belarusian presidents - PAP) Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko," Pobozy said.

Last October, Poland completed the 186-km barrier consisting of a five-metre-high steel fence topped with razor wire, and laden with electronic equipment on its border with Belarus.

The fence came in response to the 2021 migrant crisis during which thousands of people tried to get into Poland from Belarus.

Pobozy added that migration pressure has been on the rise on the border with Slovakia since the beginning of the year. "It has grown stronger especially over the last month, or even two," he added. 

Around 1,500 incidents of illegal border crossings have been reported on the Polish-Slovak border since the beginning of 2023, Pobozy said, adding that "this has been clearly more than in the previous years."

Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish prime minister, on Monday, ordered the interior minister to introduce checks of vehicles at the Polish-Slovak border to stop migrants from crossing Poland on their way to Germany via the so-called Balkan route.

The Western Balkan route is one of the main migratory paths into Europe.

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