In Poland, a pair of Syrian friends were told by human smugglers that they would be able to get to Germany from Belarus easily. The price, though, would be 3,000 euros each, equivalent to $3,390 each, to an intermediary in Turkey.
Anas Kanaan, 34, and Mouein al-Hadi, 36, spent over a week camping in freezing forests on the border of Poland before a smuggler led them to a Polish village in broad daylight. The safe routes from Belarus to Poland that had been told to them by the smugglers were closed off. They were quickly spotted by police, and the pair was returned to Belarus, despite paying the required amount to be taken into the country.
“It’s like our money has just basically evaporated,” said al-Hadi as he spoke to Reuters reporters in a field near the Polish town of Orla. He had again managed to breach the border, but he was unable to walk because his feet were too swollen from the cold.
Kanaan, his childhood friend, added, “It’s all lies. They all lead you to roads where you can die. And at the end they tell you ‘we are not responsible for you. Die, whatever.’ They just want your money.” The two, who said they want to seek asylum in Poland rather than move westwards to Germany, were again caught by a Polish border guard.
For months, the Belarusian border has faced a crisis involving thousands of migrants from Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and other countries who are all hoping to get into the European Union.
The Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko has been accused by the EU and Poland of urging migrants to travel to Belarus and cross the border illegally as a form of revenge over sanctions imposed on Minsk over human rights violations. Belarus has denied the charge.
In response, Poland has deployed over 20,000 border guards, soldiers, and police to make border crossings more difficult, and the Border Guard says illegal crossing attempts have dropped from 500 attempts per day to 200. While the crossings have become more difficult, though, the human smugglers have raised their prices to as high as $7,000, according to migrants.
ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: NEWS.TVS-24.COM
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