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The Polish Border Guard reported the death in a brief Tweet around 9:30 a.m.:

"A group of Iraqi immigrants was stopped last night 500 meters from the border with Belarus. Despite resuscitation efforts by our border patrol and an ambulance team, one of the men died (the probable cause of death being a heart attack). Another man tested positive for COVID-19 and is now in a hospital".

Migrant death toll rises near the Polish-Belarus border

It is the fourth confirmed migrant casualty reported on the Polish side of the border within the span of a single week.

On Sunday (September 19), the bodies of three men were found at various locations in the Podlaskie province. The corpse of an Iraqi citizen was found near the village of Dworczysko. An unidentified man died in a field in the Sokólsk district. The body of a third man was found in a forest near the village of Zubry. The cause of death in all three cases was most likely hypothermia. Three local prosecutors launched separate investigations into involuntary manslaughter.

Also on Sunday (September 19), Belarusian border guards reported finding the body of a 39-year-old Iraqi woman, who, according to Belarusian authorities, was "supposed to have been dragged into Belarus from the Polish side of the border".

In an official communiqué published today shortly after 8:00 a.m., the Polish Border Guard reported that yesterday, i.e. on September 23, it "prevented 271 attempts to illegally cross the Polish-Belarusian border. 3 Iraqi nationals were detained and an additional 5 people were detained for facilitating the illegal border crossing: 2 Iraqis, a Pole, a Georgian national, and a citizen of the Czech Republic".

Polish authorities show utter indifference

Last month, "Wyborcza" wrote about the dramatic situation of a group of Afghan refugees stranded in a camp in Usnarz Górny (a village on the Polish-Belarusian border). The migrants were trying to enter Poland and apply for asylum but were pushed back by the Polish border guards.

On September 2, the Polish government imposed a state of emergency in 183 local areas located near the border with Belarus. In practice, it means restrictions on many civil rights and freedoms, including those of the media, which have been banned from reporting on the situation at the border.

Earlier this week, on Tuesday, activists monitoring the situation at the Polish-Belarusian were contacted by a group of four Congolese migrants who have been wandering for five days lost in the woods. "We’re hungry, we’re cold, we’re going to die"- they wrote in a text message. Then the contact broke off.

Suspecting that the migrants might be suffering from hypothermia, activists associated with Grupa Granica (Border Group) tried to get help. Because of the movement restrictions imposed under the state of emergency, they could not reach the Congolese nationals themselves. Hoping to get medical help, the activists called an emergency dispatcher. They had previously informed the Polish border guards about the situation, but it was uncertain whether they would help the migrants.

A recording of the phone call shows that the activists met with utter indifference on the side of the authorities.

"But ma'am, it doesn't matter if they’re dying or not. These people are staying in Poland illegally, right?" - asked the emergency dispatcher when one of the activists said that the migrants might be dying. On further insistence, when the activists tried to explain that the Border Guard still hasn't reached the migrants, the dispatcher replies that "no one will be there in five minutes", and again told the activists to call the Border Guard. 

Eventually, the Border Guard confirmed that all four Congolese nationals were found on Tuesday night and are now being taken care of.

***

Every day, 400 journalists at Gazeta Wyborcza write verified, fact-checked stories about Polish politics and society, keeping a critical eye on the ruling camp’s persistent assault on democratic values and the rule of law; the growing cultural tension between religious fundamentalism and human rights; and the ongoing COVID-19 epidemic. Our journalists are on the front lines in 25 Polish cities, reporting from the streets, hospitals, and courtrooms about issues that move public opinion.

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