WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Saturday he is to hold a series of talks in Europe about the pressure of migrants on the European Union’s border with Belarus, a crisis that he expects will continue.
Morawiecki said he was meeting on Sunday with his counterparts from EU members Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, which have also been hit by the migrant pressure in recent months, though to a lesser degree.
During the week he is to travel to some other European countries, which he did not name.
Morawiecki said on Facebook that it is a “very serious geopolitical situation” and requires a lot of diplomatic effort as many migrants from the Middle East remain in Belarus and continue attempts to force their way into EU member Poland. Recent attempts took place Friday night with migrants throwing stones and using tear gas against Polish border guards and police, according to Poland’s Border Guard.
“This is why I set out on a journey to some European countries, to talk about the international crisis provoked by the actions of (Belarusian President ) Alexander Lukashenko,” Morawiecki said.
“Unfortunately, there are numerous signs suggesting that this geopolitical crisis will be continued for many months, even years,” Morawiecki said.
The West has accused Lukashenko of using the migrants as pawns to destabilize the EU in retaliation for its sanctions on his authoritarian regime. Belarus denies engineering the crisis, which has seen migrants entering the country since last summer and then trying to cross into Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Poland is pushing the migrants back, saying it is protecting the border for all of Europe. It has received words of support from the EU, NATO and the U.S.
A number of migrants have died in the damp forests straddling the border.
Some migrants have abandoned hopes of reaching Europe and were flown back to their home countries this week.
Humanitarian organizations have been pressing for the possibility of bringing aid to the stranded migrants, and NGOs in Poland have organized charity collections.
Marches in support of the migrants are to be held in Warsaw and the border town of Hajnowka on Saturday.
Poland’s defense minister, Mariusz Blaszczak, said aid should be primarily offered to potential migrants in the countries where they live.
“Let’s not draw these people here, let’s help them in the places where they come from,” Blaszczak said.