Locals in Poland-Belarus helping migrants fear backlash against the border with Poland-Belarus

Locals in Poland-Belarus helping migrants fear backlash against the border with Poland-Belarus ...

- Paulina Bownik says a police postponed her to a hospital in Bialystok last month after she tried to sign a sick immigration document so she could seek asylum.

So she had heard that migrant could soon be taken back to the border with Belarus and wanted to help him start the asylum process. But police intervened and she said that she faces a court hearing for allegedly disturbing the peace.

"As far as I understand, it is legal to help the migrants; but they're trying to intimidate us," explained Bownik, 37, a doctor who aims to help the migrants at the border, telling Reuters.

The police in Bialystok did not reply to a Reuters request to comment about the case immediately.

About half a dozen people from the border regions of Poland and Belarus say they felt authorities and hostile groups intimidated people helping migrants, threatened them with legal repercussions or violence.

Tens of thousands of migrants from Middle East countries tried to enter Poland with a visit to the European Union by car. A thousand have made it to Poland in recent months.

The EU says Belarus is waging hybrid warfare, sending migrants to the border in retaliation for sanctions against President Lukashenko's rule.

Polish charities say the situation on the border has caused a humanitarian crisis as the temperatures slow, local groups say they face protests against the community and the authority of aiding the migrants.

Medically the medical aid (Medycy na Granicy), which helps thousands of workers with sick migrants near the border, said their ambulance's tyres were deflated earlier this month and the windows of four cars were desalate recently.

The medics who ran the operation told a news conference that, "If at any point the person was threatened, it's unacceptable."

They suspended their activities by the advice of a security expert, leading them to the Polish Centre for International Aid, a non-governmental organization.


Lawyers said that many people near the border faced the threat of being charged as smugglers for providing food and shelter to migrants. They said they faced the threat of being charged because their products are unlawful.

One woman claimed that when a police officer threatened to smuggling charges, she would allow migrants to sit in her car and drive them to a doctor if temperatures continue to drop.

I told him I was ready to go to court, so that the court can prove I'm smuggling people so no one will help those at risk from health and life, she told Reuters. Her refusal to call the non-profit was the reason for the arrest of her and ask that she remain anonymous.

A spokeswoman for the regional police said warming migrants in their cars isn't smuggling.

Another activist living near the state of emergency zone, who's 3 km long strip of land - which is non-residents' borders, said she was fined 300 zlotys ($75) by the border guard for allegedly driving to a group of migrants in the zone with soup and clothes.

Even though it is illegal for people who don't live in the border area to enter, many locals have told Reuters they are allowed to work or visit their family.

The activist said she often drives into the zone and never was punished until she saw the migrants helping them.

A regional police spokesperson told Reuters they weren't responsible for handing out such fines, and the border guard handled situations in the state of emergency.

A border guard spokesperson said that locals need to get permission to enter the zone and that won't only be granted to meet those who live there permanently.

The minister referred the police and border guard to the minister.

Some residents of border towns said they understood that the police and border guard were doing their jobs.

Kamil Syller, an attorney and resident of Werstok, has however started displaying a green light in his house to show migrants that help is available.

"Even as we are all united, so we aren't afraid and we show each other room to help," he said.

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