Friday, November 12, 2021 12:06 pm
By Owei Lakemfa
The world this week is witnessing about 4,000 human beings, mainly Iraqis, Syrians and Afghans, caught in the freezing forests between Belarus and Poland. They have no warm clothing, food or water and are under siege by opposing European armies.
Flowing from Belarus which closed the borders behind them, and facing Poland which has shut its borders on their faces, many of these refugees can only await death under a climate which on Thursday, November 11, 2021, was three degrees Celsius and is getting colder. These victims include lots of children.
The situation escalated when using social media, some of the refugees, rather than simply lay down and freeze to death or be despatched by hunger, decided to march this Monday on the Polish border which promises to be their Heaven Gate pass to bigger Europe. Poland immediately massed 15,000 troops to stop the migrants while also mobilising its citizens to rise up against the hapless migrants.
In response, some far-right groups decided to move to the borders looking for migrants to take out. Poland, under the ruling anti-migrant, Law and Justice Party had in September, declared a state of emergency on its borders with Belarus. This was in anticipation of desperate moves by the starving refugees to breach its borders.
Belarus, a landlocked country of 9.399 million people and ranked as a state with high development, appeared to have been sympathetic to refugees, especially those escaping conflicts. Following disputed elections, the European Union, EU, imposed punishing sanctions on it in June 2021.
This appeared to have biting effects on the country, and it pushed for the migrants to start leaving. This, in August, led to the march by many refugees towards Poland’s 418- kilometre border with Belarus. The following month, Polish President, Andrzej Duda, declared a state of emergency over 183 towns and villages in a long term plan to ensure the refugees do not set foot on Polish soil.
This resulted in the refugees being caught in a sort of no-mans-land between the two countries. Since then, a number of the refugees have succumbed to cold and hunger. Virtually abandoned by all, with Poland refusing to allow humanitarian groups to provide food or warm clothing, the refugees using social media decided to mass at the Polish border demanding passage to the rest of Europe, particularly Germany which in the past had displayed kindness towards victims of conflicts from Asia and the Middle East.
Rather than properly examine the issues, European leaders put the blame on the doorstep of Belarusian President, Aleksander Lukashenko. They accused him of being behind the refugees’ decision as his way of getting back at the EU for imposing sanctions.
Adalbert Jahnz, the European Commission’s spokesman for migration, argued that: “This is a continuation of the desperate attempt by the Lukashenko regime to use people as pawns to destabilise the European Union and of course the values that we stand for.”
Poland threatened to use maximum force against the refugees. Polish Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, bellowed on Monday: “This border is sacred …The border of the Polish state is not just a line on the map. Generations of Poles shed their blood for this border.”
But the refugees who face possible death in the cold forests were past caring. That Monday, they made 309 attempts to breach the Polish border fences. Seventeen of them, almost all, Iraqis were detained. The next day, they made nearly 600 attempts to enter Poland.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki that day went before parliament and alleged that “the security of our eastern border is brutally violated today by a ruthless dictator who wants revenge on Poland and Europe for opposing human rights violations in Belarus. But we know that his revenge is controlled from Moscow…This attack which Lukashenko is conducting has its mastermind in Moscow, the mastermind is President Putin.”
EU President Ursula von der Leyen after meeting American President Joe Biden said both agreed that: “This is a hybrid attack. Not a migration crisis”. She claimed that there is the need to protect “democracies”. On their part, Belarus and its Russian ally accused the EU of orchestrating a crisis. Russia sent two fighter jets to protect the Belarusian airspace.
In all these, the warring Europeans do not put the lives of the hapless refugees into consideration. It is incredible that Europeans who can deploy helicopters and troops to rescue a freezing dog, would consciously force some four thousand human beings to remain in starving, freezing conditions.
The European nations have deployed special forces on their borders and helmed in the refugees, are employing arms and brute force to keep the refugees in the forests and using them as puns in this chess game.
In Poland and Belarus, the armies are mobilised, the guns are cocked, but not at themselves; in-between them are the helpless and hapless refugees, this is the buffer zone. So, if bullets fly, they would either be skywards or hit the refugees.
For those who may blame the refugees for not staying in their countries, it is necessary to remind them that the fires burning in those countries were essentially set by the EU and its allies.
The crisis in Syria was orchestrated by external forces which trained Islamic fundamentalists, including the Islamic State, and unleashed them on that country. Today, the Syrian refugees number over 5.6 million and are constantly knocking on the gates of Europe especially at the Greek and Polish borders.
Most of the refugees camping at the Polish borders are Iraqis. Iraq was a prosperous and safe country until March 2003 when countries like the United Kingdom, America, Australia and Poland invaded it under the false premise that it had weapons of mass destruction.
There are today, 9.2 million Iraqi refugees or internally displaced. The Afghan refugees roaming around the world were minted by Europe and America which invaded Afghanistan for two decades. That is why today, some of them are at the borders of Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Despite European countries being the largest group in contemporary times which through invasions have created armies of refugees, only one European country, Germany, with a million refugees, is amongst the top ten countries hosting refugees.
Turkey, which is being paid by the EU to take in refugees expelled by Europe, has 3.7 million, Jordan is next with 2.9 million, while Lebanon and Pakistan have 1.4 million refugees each. In Africa, Uganda has 1.1 million and Ethiopia, 921.000. Iran with 979,400 refugees, is also in this league.
As the refugees caught in the European chess board game in Poland are left to their fate, I recall the gladiators in Rome who shouted: “Hail Emperor, those who are about to die salute you!”
*Owei Lakemfa, human and labour activist writes from Abuja
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