Poland to increase troop numbers on Belarus border to around 10,000


FILE PHOTO: Polish police officers examine vehicles at a checkpoint on entry to the prohibited state of emergency zone, created to better manage an ongoing migrant crisis on the Belarusian-Polish border near Bialowieza, Poland October 14, 2021. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/File Photo

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland is increasing the number of troops on its border with Belarus to around 10,000, its defence minister said on Monday, as the country tries to stem a surge in migration which it blames on Minsk.

Hundreds of people from places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa have been trying to cross the border illegally every day, and Poland has beefed up security in the region, brushing aside criticism that it is treating the migrants inhumanely.

"We are increasing the number of soldiers helping the Border Guard by 2,5000," Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter. "Soon, about 10,000 soldiers from the 12th, 16th and 18th divisions will be watching over the security of the border."

The Border Guard said that over the weekend groups of about 60 or 70 migrants had twice attempted to force their way through the border and two Polish soldiers had been injured.

"As a result of these events, two Polish soldiers were hospitalised, one of them was hit in the face with a stone, the other with a branch," Border Guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska told a news conference. "These people are not in any danger, they have left hospital."

The European Commission and Warsaw say the flow of migrants has been orchestrated by Belarus in a bid to put pressure on the European Union over sanctions it imposed on Minsk. Belarus has denied this.

Poland has declared a state of emergency in the region and plans to build a wall on the border.

The Polish parliament has also passed legislation that human rights advocates say aims to legalise pushbacks of migrants across its borders in breach of the country's commitments under international law.

(Reporting by Alicja Ptak, writing by Alan Charlish, editing by Susan Fenton)

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