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Following President Duda’s request, on Thursday, the Polish parliament voted to extend the state of emergency in parts of the country’s two easternmost regions for another 60 days.
The measure has been recommended to the government by the Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration Mariusz Kamiński.
State of emergency: bans and restrictions along Poland’s eastern border
On September 2, President Andrzej Duda issued an executive order imposing a 30-day state of emergency along Poland’s border with Belarus. Both the President and the ruling camp argued that the state of emergency is a necessary countermeasure against Alexander Lukashenko’s hybrid warfare tactics, i.e. weaponizing illegal migration in order to destabilize Poland (Belarus is using the same strategy along its border with Latvia and Lithuania as well).
Journalists and human rights activists will remain banned from entering the entire area covered by the state of emergency for another 60 days, while the Polish Border Guard can be expected to forcibly push the migrants back into Belarus.
Keeping the state of emergency in place means far-reaching restrictions for a total of 183 towns and villages. The practical implications of the decision include:
- the suspension of the right to organize public gatherings and mass, artistic and entertainment events, and an obligation to carry an ID card or another identification document,
- a prohibition to stay in the area 24 hours a day with exceptions specified in the regulation (this does not apply, among others, to permanent residents of the area),
- a ban on recording, taping, and photographing of objects and locations showing border infrastructure, including images of border guard officers, police and soldiers,
- restricted access to public information on activities carried out in the area under the state of emergency related to protecting the state border and preventing and counteracting illegal migration.
So far, a total of six people have died trying to cross the "green border" between Poland and Belarus. Five of them were found on the Polish side of the border.
Head of National Security Bureau: "we can’t yield to humanitarian blackmail"
The Presidential request to extend the state of emergency was presented during the Thursday parliamentary session by the head of the National Security Bureau, Paweł Soloch. He recalled that the president had been personally acquainted with the situation on the border and "highly appreciated the actions" of the border guard authorities. He considered any provocations on the part of the Belarusian regime as unacceptable and promised that Poland will provide assistance to all refugees entitled to it.
- According to the president, the reasons for introducing the state of emergency remain unchanged- Mr Soloch said.
Zdzisław Sipiera, a member of the Law and Justice party parliamentary caucus, said that thanks to introducing the state of emergency "there are no performance art events" at the border and since "the media coverage meant to create an emotional spiral has been significantly reduced, the work of state authorities at the border has been facilitated".
- The situation at the border is very tense and we can expect more provocations to come- he said, adding that it is necessary, among other things, "not to yield to political, humanitarian, and social blackmail".
Opposition MPs vote against extending the state of emergency
The decision to extend the state of emergency was passed mainly with the votes of the ruling camp and the nationalist-libertarian Confederation party. 237 MPs voted in favor of the motion, 179 were against it, and 31 abstained.
Speaking in front of the parliament, Civic Coalition MP Bartłomiej Sienkiewicz cited the example of hundreds of refugees who have reached Germany passing through the supposedly airtight Polish-Belarusian border. - You are great at chasing away women and children, but you are not able to catch men who then somehow reappear outside of our borders- he said, addressing members of the ruling party.
-You do not know how to keep Poland safe, everything is slipping through your fingers. And the effect of this is that, just in case, you have banned all media from reporting on whatever is happening around the border area. This is also why you refuse to let Frontex near the Polish-Belarusian border- added the opposition MP.
- This is the rule you go by: you want to lie, get rid of witnesses when something doesn't work out for you [...]. If things don't work out in your favor, you’ll decide to introduce a state of emergency in the entire country. Everything you touch is falling apart; you have created complete chaos.
Mr Sienkiewicz concluded his speech by announcing that his party would not support the extension of the state of emergency, because of sheer decency. -What is happening to the migrant children at the border- he said- has nothing to do with national security.
Minister of Interior asks Frontex to stay on the sidelines
Also on Thursday, the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson met with the Polish Minister of Interior Mariusz Kamiński to discuss the humanitarian situation at Poland’s eastern border.
Johansson raised the issue of sending Frontex officials to the Polish-Belarusian border. According to the EU Commissioner, Minister Kamiński replied that Poland had its own competent border authorities. She also expressed doubts about the compliance of the new Polish border regulations with EU law. Specifically, she questioned the regulation facilitating the deportation of migrants. The EU Commissioner and the Head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration did not reach an agreement on what to do next. - I will want to continue talking about this issue - Johansson told "Wyborcza".
She did not answer the question of whether, in her opinion, the deaths of migrants on the Polish-Belarusian border could be the result of the wrongdoings on the side of the Polish authorities. - Let us wait for the outcome of the investigation into the circumstances of these deaths. I am glad that it has been launched- Johansson said.
A delegation of the EU Commission Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs will fly to Warsaw to continue the discussion on border security and the humanitarian crisis on October 6.
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