Iraqi migrant dies near Belarus border, death toll up to 5

·2 min read

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — An Iraqi migrant died near Poland’s border with Belarus and another was hospitalized with COVID-19, Polish border guards said Friday.

The death raises to five the number of fatalities among migrants who try to cross into European Union member states Poland and Lithuania from Belarus through an area of thick woods and bogs.

The Iraqi migrant died despite efforts to revive him. Polish officials have attributed the earlier deaths to hypothermia and exhaustion.

Border guards posted on their twitter account that one of a group of Iraqi migrants who were apprehended some 500 meters inside Poland from its border with Belarus died of a probable heart attack.

The other migrant was taken to hospital after testing positive to a COVID-19 test.

The plight of the migrants, chiefly from Iraq and Afghanistan, who try reach the EU has caught the attention of human rights organizations.

Two United Nations agencies have requested access to asylum-seekers stranded at Belarus’s border with Poland and Lithuania. EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, and other officials are planning a visit soon to assess the situation at the border.

Poland’s government insists its main task is to guard the frontier against the migrant influx and accuses Belarus' Moscow-backed government of organizing it.

Warsaw has so far rejected EU suggestions that the bloc’s border and coast guard agency, Frontex, assists in assist with guarding the border.

Poland's government spokesman Piotr Mueller has said that using Frontex would not change the situation.

The Polish and Lithuanian governments have introduced states of emergency on 1 kilometer (0.6 mile)-wide strips along their border with Belarus that deny entry to anyone except border guards, the military and security services. They also are building razor wire fences along their border with Belarus.

Poland and Lithuania have been receiving an unusual number of Middle East and African migrants and refugees arriving from Belarus in recent months. The migrant influx began after Western countries introduced sanctions on Lukashenko’s government over the country’s disputed August 2020 presidential election and a crackdown on the opposition.

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