State of emergency shows gravity of migration crisis - EC vice-president

John Thys /PAP/EPA

Poland's plans to declare a state of emergency in areas close to the country’s Belarusian border show that the current migration crisis is very serious, Vera Jourova, European Commission vice-president, said on Tuesday.

The Polish government has asked the country's president to declare a state of emergency in the eastern border regions owing to an alleged attempt by Belarus to destabilise Poland by pushing migrants across the border.

Jourova told Wirtualna Polska, a leading news and entertainment web service, that Poland had refrained from introducing a state of emergency even during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said a decision to declare a state of emergency was "unprecedented."

The immediate reason for the move is a crisis caused by the plight of 30 Middle Eastern migrants camped for the past three weeks on the Polish-Belarusian border after being refused entry by Poland.

However, Jourova said that the people trapped at the border were in a "tragic situation" and should be offered humanitarian aid. At the same time she admitted the situation was "very complicated" as she expressed trust that the Polish government would resolve the situation.

Jourova said the people camped at the border were "victims of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko's regime" who was trying to smuggle migrants to the EU for money.

She also stressed that the EU needed to keep its borders secure but at the same time was obliged to ensure safety and humanitarian treatment to those who had already crossed the border.

A senior EU official told reporters in Brussels on Tuesday that Lukashenko keeps transferring migrants from Iraq to EU borders, targeting Lithuania and Poland, and using migrants in his hybrid warfare against the EU.

The matter will be further discussed at an EU foreign ministers' meeting later in the week, the official also said, adding that further sanctions against Minsk could not be ruled out.

Poland's Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said earlier in the day that the state of emergency restrictions would affect local inhabitants in a limited way but would restrict access of other people to the protected area. He said there will be "no trips, no events and no demonstrations."