WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish police said Thursday they have found the body of a Syrian migrant near the border with Belarus, the latest fatality among people trying to illegally cross the European Union’s eastern border through dense forest and swamps.
Bialystok police spokesman Tomasz Krupa said a police helicopter spotted the man's body in a field on Wednesday. Documents found on the body indicated he was a 24-year-old Syrian man, who had been in Belarus since mid-September.
Prosecutors are investigating the death.
At least six other migrants have died of exhaustion at the Polish-Belarusian border since August, when large numbers of people from Iraq, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan, but also from Africa started trying to cross there. Hoping to eventually reach Germany, they got stranded in the wooded border strip with no food or protection from the elements.
Poland says Minsk is behind the migrant arrivals by offering free tourist visas and easy flights to Belarus, as part of a “hybrid war” on the EU in response to the bloc's sanctions on President Alexander Lukashenko's regime. Poland's border guards and military are turning migrants back to Belarus.
Poland’s Foreign Ministry summoned Belarusian charge d’affaires Alexander Chesnovski on Thursday over the situation at the border.
Also Thursday, the lower house of Poland’s parliament approved a government decision to build a high barrier with motion sensors on the border with Belarus to deter crossings. Its estimated cost is over 1.6 billion zlotys ($400 million). It still needs approval from the opposition-controlled Senate and from President Andrzej Duda.
Polish authorities said that so far this month there have been 6,700 hindered attempts to illegally cross the border, and a total of more than 10,000 since August. Another 1,500 people were detained inside Poland and taken to guarded facilities.
They can apply for international protection there, or for asylum, that would cover all of the EU territory, if granted. But in most cases it is denied and the migrants are sent back to the country they entered Poland from.
Follow AP’s global migration coverage at https://apnews.com/hub/migration
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.