“We drink from a puddle”: migrants describe a brutal journey through the Belarusian-Polish border forest

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Hundreds of immigrants have been trying to enter Poland from Belarus, and the authorities there seem to have facilitated their entry into EU countries. Many people are trapped in the border areas in cold conditions.

Youssef Atallah, a 37-year-old Syrian, arrived in Poland after crossing the border from Belarus for the third time. Speaking at a refugee center in Bialystok, he recalled how after arriving at the border, the Belarusian guards grabbed his team of four and he was beaten, leaving him with facial injuries, broken nose and abrasions on his ribs.

“They took us to the restricted area. This is the first attempt to cross the border to Poland,” he told CNN. He said that officials refused to provide medical assistance and repeatedly told them to go to Poland instead of returning to Minsk, the capital of Belarus. During the dangerous journey, Atala said that he had no food and only drank the water in the swamp. He added, “I saw something left by another refugee group (and) I found a piece of candy. I started to suck it because I can’t chew, I can’t bite or anything.”

A Syrian woman interviewed by CNN in recent weeks said that she had flown from the Lebanese capital Beirut to Minsk. She claimed that the Belarusian military helped her and a group of other immigrants reach the border area from there and cut off the border fence.

When Polish police repeatedly pushed the group back, the woman said they begged the Belarusian authorities to return safely to Minsk airport so that they could return to their country of origin. She said they refused.

The woman said that she was trapped in the forest on the border between Belarus and Poland for 12 days before being able to bypass the Polish police and cross the border into Poland. From there, she rented what she called a “taxi” for $2,000 and headed to Germany, the ideal destination for many immigrants.

A few weeks ago, the woman, who asked not to be named, told CNN in an interview with CNN at a refugee center in Eisenhüttenstadt, Germany: “I have been sleeping under a tree. [The] We have a sleeping bag on the first day. [But] We lost everything when we walked [between] Tree. “

“Five days later, we drank from the floor. We didn’t have anything, and they didn’t help us,” she said. “We put a bottle on the floor… we drink from the puddle.”

“We can’t drink it in the morning because it’s black,” she choked.

On Wednesday, migrants used a bonfire to warm themselves in a camp on the border between Belarus and Poland.

Thousands of stranded people between Poland and Belarus are at the center of a growing geopolitical dispute that has pitted the European Union, the United States, and NATO against the Belarusian government. Western officials accused Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko of creating an immigration crisis at the eastern border of the European Union in order to destabilize the European Union as a retaliation for sanctions against human rights violations.

His government denied these claims and instead blamed the West for dangerous and sometimes fatal border crossings and poor treatment of migrants.

The Polish Border Guard said on Thursday that in the past two days, it had recorded about 1,000 crossing attempts, including some “large-scale” operations, in which groups of more than 100 people tried to break through the fence. Polish authorities detained a few people and immediately sent others back to Belarus.

Polish authorities stated that 4,300 border crossing attempts have been recorded since the beginning of November.

On Wednesday, migrants waited on the Belarusian side of the border. Thousands of people are facing a desperate situation when trying to enter the European Union.

Immigrants interviewed by CNN said they paid about $8,000 for the trip. “I went to Lebanon [from Syria]. I went to the airport from Lebanon and traveled to Belarus on a Dubai Air tourist visa,” said 27-year-old Syrian immigrant Mohammad Nassar.

“At the airport, they treat you like tourists. There is a hotel there. But as soon as you reach the border village of Harrodnia, they start to treat you very badly,” Naxal said. “For the past four days, we had no food. They gave us nothing. Sometimes they only gave us water.”

Keno, a 17-year-old girl from northern Iraq, said that the Belarusian military dragged her team into the back seat of a truck and transported them to the border.

“Belarusians…sometimes are bad for us, sometimes they are good for us,” Keno said, not revealing her last name for security reasons. “In my case, they took us to the border in a truck… and they cut off [border] metallic line. ”

The press officer of the Polish Border Guard, Katarzyna Zdanowicz, said that the situation in the Kuznica area was calm on Wednesday and the immigrants received hot food and drinks from Belarusian soldiers overnight.

Zdanovic quoted estimates from the border guards and estimated that the number of immigrants camped at the border was about 4,000. She does not rule out the possibility that more people will travel to the border areas from other parts of Belarus. However, the Belarusian State Border Commission stated on Tuesday that there were approximately 2,000 migrants at the scene.

Several Polish officials accused Belarus of helping immigrants try to cross the border. The Deputy Interior Minister Bartosz Grodecki told Polish media on Wednesday that migrants are “continuously transported to the border by Belarusian services”.

Grodecki also claimed that “in addition to Belarusian services, there may be representatives of Russian services” among the immigrant population.

On Thursday, Russia denied that it was helping immigrants enter Belarus.

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