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Monday, October 18, 2021

Polish MPs approve €350M wall on Belarusian border as migrant death toll rises

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The Polish parliament on Thursday approved plans for a 1.6 billion złoty (€350 million) wall on the border with Belarus to keep out migrants, as authorities reported that another asylum seeker was found dead.

Poland, Latvia and Lithuania have accused authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko of retaliating against the bloc’s sanctions on his regime by helping thousands of people fly from the Middle East to Minsk and then try to cross into the EU. Poland has declared a state of emergency in a 3-kilometer-wide strip along the border, but has faced heavy criticism for its migrant policies, accused of illegally pushing people back and not letting them file asylum claims.

Poland had already started to build a barbed-wire fence to prevent migrants from crossing the border in August. Plans for the wall, including barriers, cameras and sensors, were approved in parliament by 274 votes in favor, 174 against and one abstention. The bill also allows for the barrier to be built without a public tender and includes a provision to expropriate property from citizens if needed in exchange for compensation.

Meanwhile, police on Thursday said they had discovered the body of a man identified as a 24-year-old Syrian citizen near Klimówka, a small village close to the border with Belarus.

“Police officers also found visa documents proving that the man had been in Belarus since mid-September,” police spokesperson Tomasz Krupa told the Onet news portal.

It’s the fifth body found along the border since August; others have reportedly died from exhaustion and hypothermia.

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Sarah Huemer

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