German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to Belarus to help migrants instead of trying to send them across the border into the European Union, branding these attempts “hybrid attacks”.
On a visit to Poland, Merkel addressed the influx of migrants — mostly from the Middle East — via Belarus into the eastern EU states of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
“The appeal to the Belarusian side is to realise that defenceless people from other regions are being used as subjects of hybrid attacks,” Merkel told a press conference with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
“I think it is completely unacceptable to carry out such hybrid attacks on the backs of individuals,” the chancellor said, adding she had spoken to Russian President Vladimir Putin about the issue.
She said the migrants should be assisted by humanitarian organisations and “the Polish side must also be open to this”.
The EU suspects Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko is engineering the flow of migrants across the border in retaliation against increasingly stringent EU sanctions on his regime.
Thousands of migrants have either crossed over or attempted to cross in recent months — an unprecedented number for the region.
Poland has responded by sending 2,000 troops to the frontier, beginning construction of a razor wire border fence and imposing a state of emergency along the border with Belarus.
Critics of Poland’s right-wing populist government have accused it of using the issue of migration for electoral support and of failing to provide adequate assistance to the migrants.
Merkel said this would be her last visit to Warsaw as chancellor since she will step down following elections this month.
She will travel to Paris next week for a final working dinner with French President Emmanuel Macron.