In the cold, damp forest lining the border between Poland and Belarus, thousands of refugees flown over from the Middle East have waiting to cross into the EU for days. Belarusian riot police are shoving them away from their gates and towards Poland, where only more forces await.
The Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko has recently been in conflict with the EU, which has imposed sanctions on his regime after last year’s contested elections which many believe to have been rigged. Lukashenko is pushing refugees towards Poland to be pawns in a fight, with the backing of Putin.
The refugees find themselves between a rock and a hard place: in front of them, a Polish government who looks good appearing tough against migration and Lukashenko. Behind them, a dictator who enjoys almost unlimited Russian backing and has absolutely nothing to lose from the current stand-off. And, from where they stand, the coming cold.
The EU’s reaction came from Ursula von der Leyen, who called for extended sanctions, and possible measures against third-country airlines involved in human trafficking. But who are these third countries?
In the background of the great geopolitical game, a third player is quietly stoking the fire, one that von der Leyen dares not name: Turkey.
In March last year, the very same scenes we’re witnessing in the Polish borders unfolded in the borders between Greece and Turkey. Now, Erdogan is reportedly allowing refugees to board planes from Istanbul to Minsk, from which they travel on to Poland. Human beings are being weaponised to destabilise EU countries, and Europe is silent in response.
Erdogan has practice. In March last year, thousands of refugees were driven from the Syrian border to the Greek borders by Erdogan’s regime.