Longer state of emergency will improve security, gov't spokesman says
The government wants to prolong the state of emergency on the Polish-Belarusian border in order to contain the migrant crisis and have time to erect a more complete border fence, the government spokesman has said.
The state of emergency, which has been in force since September 2 in the parts of the Podlaskie and Lubelskie provinces bordering Belarus, bars non-residents from entering the area it covers. The Polish government argues that it is necessary to deal with the growing number of attempts by migrants to cross into Poland from Belarus and to provide security.
The government wants to prolong the regime for another 60 days, the maximum period allowed by Poland's constitution.
Speaking to the private news television TVN24 on Thursday, Piotr Mueller expressed hope that the extra time would allow Poland "to erect at least a part of the infrastructure needed to restrict those movements."
Poland began to erect a fence along its border with Belarus in late August.
Mueller said that if the situation on the border does not improve after the extra 60 days, the government will take measures it can under the law.
The spokesman was also asked whether Poland had resorted to "push backs" in which migrants are forced back across the border.
On Wednesday, Polish media quoted a spokeswoman for a Podlaskie unit of the Border Guard, Katarzyna Zdanowicz, who confirmed that a group of 20 migrants, including women and children, had been taken back to the Belarusian border.
Addressing the issue, Mueller said "such semantics are being created to give the impression that Poland is doing something wrong." But he added that each such case should be investigated.
"If someone knows that they are crossing it (the border) illegally, they must take into account that they may be taken to a detention centre and then deported from the country," Mueller said.
"In the beginning they will also be told to turn back and return to the territory where they should stay," he added.
Mueller said that "there about 1,000 people on Polish territory who crossed the border and were being taken care of by the Polish state."
Poland and the Baltic countries have accused the Belarusian government of pushing migrants, most of them from the Middle East, across their borders in an effort to destabilise both its neighbours and the EU.