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Searching for a Better Life Through Chilling Forests

Thousands of people are stranded on the border between Poland and Belarus, hoping to get deeper into Europe and start a new life. Most of them are from the Middle East and Asia. They came to Minsk and travelled to the border believing it would be relatively easy to get into Europe–because Belarus made it less complicated for people from the Middle East to get visas. Thus, going to Belarus seemed easier than through Turkey or north Africa.

However, the migrants’ journeys weren’t as smooth as it was primarily described to them. Since more and more people were trying to cross Poland’s borders illegally, the country improved security on their side of the Kuznica-Bruzgi border crossing. The migrants started gathering up on the Belarusian side of the border–they’ve attempted to cross the border hundreds of times, but few were successful. Those who somehow managed to make it to Poland had to live in the forest without food and water for days–just to be caught and returned to Belarus later. On the other side of the border, Belarusian officers refused to provide medical care and persistently told them to go to Poland and not return to Minsk.

The migrants, among them women and children, are stuck on the border in terrible conditions. The weather is getting worse and before not long ago their best shelters were tents – not much protection from the region’s subzero temperatures. According to the Polish border guard agency, at least nine people have died. Many are suffering from hypothermia, dehydration, hunger, and exhaustion. Some migrants returned to their countries but many refuse to go back. And it’s no wonder – a lot of them sold everything they had to have a better life. The “tickets”, which were supposed to include visas, transportation, shelter and fees for smugglers, could be as high as 11 000  per person. They simply don’t have anything to come back to.

Belarus is accused of orchestrating this whole situation – inviting the migrants and offering them a new way of getting into the EU. The country’s believed to have done this as payback for sanctions imposed by the EU on Belarus earlier this year. For Poland’s nationalist party, whose parliamentary power has weakened in the last few years, the crisis has also been a useful distraction now many see it the party as the protector of Poland and the EU. The victims who got used and didn’t get a thing from this geopolitical dispute are the migrants.

Amélia Cápec