Interfaith coalition asks Poland to help migrants stuck at border

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An interfaith coalition called on Polish authorities Tuesday to give humanitarian aid to a group of migrants who have been stuck in the open air at Poland’s border with Belarus for more than three weeks.

The coalition, which includes Christian, Jewish and Muslim representatives, noted that the people stuck at the border “suffer from hunger, cold and indifference.”

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“Motivated by feelings of human solidarity, we call on the competent Polish authorities to immediately provide the refugees stranded in the border area with the necessary humanitarian aid: provide them with hot meals, drinks, medicines, and medical assistance,” said the Community of Conscience — Coalition of Mutual Respect in a statement.

Poland has seen a surge of migrants, mostly from Iraq and Afghanistan, seeking to illegally cross the border in recent weeks. The Polish government accuses the authoritarian regime in Belarus of facilitating migration to Poland as a way of creating instability in the European Union.

Other EU nations on Belarus’ border — primarily Lithuania but also Latvia and Estonia — have also faced migration pressure. The four have increased security at their borders, which form part of the EU’s external border.

Poland has deployed hundreds of soldiers to reinforce border guards and has been installing a tall barbed wire barrier.

Polish border guards said that more than 3,200 people tried to cross illegally into Poland from Belarus in August alone. It said most were from Iraq, followed by Afghanistan, but that some also came from Somalia, Tajikistan and Syria.

Attention in Poland has focused heavily on a smaller group stuck for more than three weeks. Poland insists that they are on Belarusian territory and will not let them into Poland. It has offered to send humanitarian aid but insists the deliveries must enter an official crossing point with Belarus.

Images in the Polish media from the border show the group camped out, with Polish soldiers and border guards just steps away from the migrants.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says Poland will not succumb to “blackmail” by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Concerns for the people are rising as nights have gotten cold and the areas has seen rainfall and human rights groups say some are ill.

“It is our human responsibility to those in need -- regardless of their current and future legal status,” added the interfaith statement.

Among those who signed it were religious leaders and representatives with the Joint Council of Catholics and Muslims, the Polish Council of Christians and Jews, the rector of the Catholic University of Lublin and a bishop of the Evangelical-Augsburg Church in Poland.

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