Let’s Tune In To The EU’s Periphery: Poland Rushes To Secure Border With Belarus….Again

Nicholas Zalewski
Polish border guards near border wall on Polish-Belarussian border. Source: Straż Graniczna

Poland has been dealing with issues with its eastern border for several years now. Unfortunately, it appears this will continue. Russia and Belarus have constantly been causing problems for Poland. Not only has Poland been concerned about the invasion in Ukraine spilling over onto Polish territory, but Russia and Belarus have weaponized illegal immigration purposefully sending people to Poland. In order to combat this, Poland is sending 10,000 troops to secure the border between Poland and Belarus. This is notably ten times the number of troops than the Border Guard asked for. So far, 19,000 migrants have tried to illegally enter Poland from Belarus, while only 16,000 migrants attempted to in 2022.

Belarus has been encouraging migrants from the Middle East and Africa to cross over into Poland, primarily from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria in 2021. Airlines the same year cracked down however and Turkey banned citizens of Iraq, Yemen, and Syria from being able to buy flight tickets to Minsk. As Turkey owns 49 percent of Turkish Airlines, it is able to enforce this policy. Iraqi Airlines followed suit and also stated that flights were canceled to Minsk. According to the website, it appears flights from Baghdad to Minsk are still not available. Belavia, the Belarussian state airline, claimed to do the same but reasonably there is some doubt over this as the airline is accused of flying people to Minsk on behalf of the Belarussian airline. The airline claims to have banned travel agencies potentially trafficking people but refused to name the agencies.

In 2022, Poland built a wall to prevent migrants from being able to illegally cross the border from Belarus. While the Polish government may have seen this as necessary to prevent a large migration crisis, Polish towns near Belarus have struggled economically. Companies involved in trade, transportation, and tourism have suffered economically. The companies were especially hurt as they had minimal notice of the border being closed which gives them little time to evolve to earn money in other ways.

Artistic rendering of the border wall Poland has constructed. Source: Mezha Media

Belarus’ Motive For Weaponization Of Migrants

It may be confusing why Belarus would weaponize migration, but Belarus views this as a way to punish Poland and the European Union. Poland and the European Union have been vocal about the political situation in Belarus. In 2020, Belarus had a presidential election in which Lukashenko won yet again, solidifying his career as the longest ruling leader in Europe. The election however was not considered free nor fair as political opponents were put in jail in order to prevent them from competing against Lukashenko. Belarus currently has the highest rate of jailed journalists in Europe as Lukashenko attempts to control the narrative of the nation’s political situation. Journalists who do not stick with Lukashenko’s view of events are labeled extremists. Many fled Belarus to avoid being arrested. Others were less unfortunate and were arrested if their news organization was labeled extremist. Yulia Davletova, a journalist was arrested after the tv channel Ranak was labeled extremist. The channel didn’t lament a lack of political freedoms in the country, it simply reported on an industrial incident. 

After the Belarussian election in 2020, the European Union placed sanctions on Belarus in order to pressure it to stop cracking down on people protesting the government. Since October 2020, the European Union has adopted five different sanction packages. The European Union first took steps against the Belarussian government in 2004 due to the fact that two politicians, a journalist, and a businessman all disappeared in 1999 and 2000. Belarus seems to not have learned the first time as Lukashenko has continued his crackdown on the political opposition.

Migrants attempting to cross into Poland in 2021. Source: Leonid Scheglov/BelTA/Handout via REUTERS

People attempt to argue Poland is maintaining a double standard by assisting Ukrainians fleeing the war while turning away others, but this is bending the truth. Ukrainians are only able to flee to Poland, Moldova, and Romania by land as the airspace is closed off due to Putin’s invasion. Other nations such as Iraq which is one of the main sources of migrants trying to cross into Poland from Belarus is not currently at war. Poland also is still developing economically and has yet to achieve economic convergence with wealthier European Union member states and does not have the financial ability to help everyone. The Polish government is still working on providing The uncomfortable discussion that needs to be had is the European Union cannot help everyone that wants to come. Instead, other nations need to step up. Several nations in the Middle East have become wealthy including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Wagner Group

Poland is also concerned that members of the Wagner Group may attempt to cross into Ukraine. The Wagner Group infamously had a brief attempt of going against Putin and moving troops towards Moscow. This briefly caused popcorn to sell out in Ukrainian supermarkets as people watched the news. Due to this, members of the Wagner Group were sent to Belarus to live in exile. Poland however is concerned that they may not stay in Belarus but instead attempt to cause chaos in Poland. These concerns are not unfounded as reports show that about 100 members of Wagner group were inching their way towards the Polish border. While Poland is a member of the European Union and NATO and other nations would defend it in the case of an attack, understandably the nation would prefer to avoid another war on Polish soil. 


President Lukashenko is unlikely to give up his position as President of Belarus anytime soon meanwhile the European Union will maintain its sanctions on Belarus in support of Belarussian citizens protesting the political environment. This means Poland will continue to likely face people trying to illegally cross the Polish-Belarussian border. The Polish government will also have to stay alert for a potential attack from the Wagner Group if members were successfully able to cross into Poland. It will be interesting to see whether this issue has an impact on the Polish election later this year. 

Please Read The Following For More Information:

Poland to send up to 10,000 soldiers to border with Belarus. Al Jazeera 10 August 2023.

“Belarus border crisis: How are migrants getting there?” BBC. 26 November 2021.

“Poland warns of threat from Russian mercenaries based in Belarus” Euronews. 30 July 2023.

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by Nicholas Zalewski time to read: 4 min