WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Polish authorities reported Sunday that a group of migrants who tried to cross the border from Belarus attacked Polish police officers with stones, hitting one in the helmet.
Police said that incident occurred Saturday evening near Kolonia Klukowicze, a village close to the border with Belarus. The impact of the stone was so forceful that “the helmet protecting the policeman’s head was damaged,” police said.
In a separate incident some three hours earlier, about 50 migrants broke through a border barrier by force near a different border village, Starzyna, police reported. Police said they detained 22 Iraqi citizens.
They are the latest developments in a tense standoff on the eastern frontier of Poland, which is also the eastern edge of both the European Union and NATO.
The EU accuses Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating a large movement of migrants from the Middle East to the border in retaliation for sanctions on his repressive rule.
Belarus denies the allegations, but had warned in the summer that it will no longer stop migrants and others seeking to enter the EU.
Many of the migrants are now stuck in makeshift camps in freezing weather as Poland has reinforced its border with 15,000 soldiers in addition to border guards and police in an attempt to stop migrants and refugees from entering the country.
Most are fleeing conflict, poverty or hopelessness in Syria and Iraq and hope to reach Germany or elsewhere in western Europe.
Poland’s Border Guard agency said it has recorded over 33,000 illegal attempts to cross its border from Belarus so far this year, up from some 120 last year.
Some people are known to make multiple attempts, and German authorities said that they have recorded more than 9,000 arrivals of migrants who have come through Belarus.
Polish police have also been detaining people suspected of smuggling the migrants, with two citizens of Georgia, one Pole and one Syrian detained on Saturday.
Poland’s Interior Ministry said it is also seeking to dispel rumors among migrants that Poland has agreed to transport the migrants to Germany on Monday.
The government said it is sending security alerts in English to peoples’ phones in the area saying: “It’s a total lie and nonsense! Poland will continue to protect its border with Belarus.”
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