Police raid humanitarian group's offices near border
The Polish police have been accused of "intimidation" after officers, some of them reportedly carrying rifles, raided the offices of a a humanitarian group working on the Polish-Belarusian border.
Warsaw's Klub Inteligencji Katolickiej (KIK) established a humanitarian aid point in the village of Gródek in eastern Poland to help migrants who have crossed into Poland from Belarus.
Jakub Kiersnowski, the Warsaw KIK head, told the online portal onet.pl on Thursday that armed police, including officers carrying rifles, had entered the aid point on Wednesday night and kept searching the premises for the whole night, seizing two computers and a phone.
According to Kiersnowski, a dozen police cars arrived at the scene.
"We'll demand the return of the equipment as we need it to continue our work of helping people whose lives and health are in danger," Kiersnowski told Onet.
He said the police operation was "perhaps an attempt to discourage" volunteers from activity near the border.
Grupa Granica, another NGO that helps migrants, wrote on Twitter in the early hours on Thursday: "Armed police have entered private property and volunteers are being interrogated. These actions are yet another attempt to intimidate people who provide humanitarian aid!"
But a spokesman for the regional police, Tomasz Krupa, told PAP on Thursday that the police had entered the NGO's offices "due to a suspected crime of facilitating illegal crossings of the border".
Krupa confirmed the police had seized the NGO's electronic equipment but said no-one had been detained in the operation.
The police spokesman declined to provide any further details as the investigation was "at an early stage".
Poland has been struggling to stem a wave of migrants, mainly from the Middle East and Africa, who had been invited to Belarus by the country's president, Alexander Lukashenko, under a false promise of easy access to the EU.
Many migrants have been stranded in the border area on the Belarusian side, but a number of them have managed to cross into Poland.
Some of those who succeeded have been, allegedly, pushed back into Belarus by the Polish Border Guard, only to be later encouraged or even threatened by Belarusian services to try their luck again, which often means days spent outside in temperatures below zero degrees Centigrade.
The migration crisis has been Lukashenko's retaliation for sanctions that Brussels imposed on Minsk for suppressing the Belarusian opposition, the Polish minority in the country and abuse of human rights.