Poland is reintroducing restrictions on access to areas along the Belarusian border due to migration pressure

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WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland on Thursday reintroduced movement restrictions along parts of its border with Belarus due to increased migratory pressure accompanied by violence against Polish security officials.

The ban, which takes effect Thursday, will last 90 days and affects 60 kilometers (37 miles) of the land border between NATO member Poland and Belarus, an autocratic state with ties to Russia. The border between Poland and Belarus is approximately 400 kilometers long.

Prime Minister Donald Tusk’s government says the purpose of the so-called buffer zone is to ensure the safety of outsiders, as well as border guards, soldiers and police working in the area. It also says it wants to limit the activities of human smugglers who have facilitated illegal migration at that border.

Residents and people working or studying in the area will be allowed access to the border areas, but others will need a permit.

Refugee rights activists are unhappy with the decision, saying it will prevent them from reaching the area to help migrants crossing the border who need medical or other assistance.

Since 2021, EU authorities have accused authoritarian Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of weaponize migration by luring people to his country to find an easier entry point into the bloc than the more dangerous routes across the Mediterranean.

The previous Polish government responded to the arrival of migrants by building a steel barrier and declaring a state of emergency in 2021, which had since expired.

The number of attempted illegal border crossings from Belarus into EU member Poland has increased again recently and Polish officials say they are seeing aggressive behavior from some migrants on the Belarusian side of the border. They have posted videos online showing migrants throwing stones, logs and even burning wood at Polish troops from behind the fence. One Polish soldier was fatally stabbed by a migrant at the end of May and was buried on Wednesday.

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