On Tuesday, Franek Sterczewski made a break for the border. Wearing a long trench coat and carrying a blue plastic bag, he managed to outrun one armed soldier before being stopped by a line of officers. Sterczewski, however, wasn’t fleeing his native Poland — he was trying to help those who desperately want to get in.August 24, 2021
The rebellious 33-year old MP had planned to hand out medicine and water to the line of asylum seekers camped out on the eastern frontier with Belarus. Hundreds of people from countries like Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan have begun making the crossing into the EU in recent weeks, prompting outcry in neighbouring Poland and Lithuania. Now, with Warsaw and Vilnius laying down makeshift barbed-wire border fences, they are stuck in the vast green forests of Eastern Europe, making daily attempts to evade the authorities and slip through to safety.
Brussels has accused the Belarusian government of actively shipping in would-be refugees by laying on flights from troubled destinations like Baghdad, bussing them to the border and refusing to allow them to turn back. Those depending on the scheme say they’ve paid their life savings to traffickers and are often terrified of being sent back. Belarus denies the charge that it is ‘weaponising vulnerable people’, instead insisting officials are simply no longer prepared to stop them reaching the EU because of the latest round of sanctions imposed on the country by the bloc.
While Poland and Lithuania have welcomed the fleeing Belarusian opposition with open arms, asylum seekers moving through the country are facing a frostier welcome. Lithuania which, until now, has seen the sharpest increase in crossings, has passed emergency laws that have been criticised by the EU’s human rights commissioner. Those