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Police in Germany’s north-eastern region of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania have detained 21 Iraqi nationals, after they crossed illegally into the country from neighbouring Poland, federal law enforcement said on Tuesday.
Authorities, who had acted on a tip-off from local residents, said they believe the Iraqis were secretly brought into Germany in several vehicles. The migrants named the UK as their intended destination.
Over the weekend in the same region, German police arrested a smuggler who was trying to bring in another 31 Iraqi migrants.
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In recent months, thousands of migrants – mostly Iraqis, Syrians and Iranians – have managed to cross over from Belarus into Poland and make their way to Germany. In October alone, the German Federal police said they’d intercepted 4,246 illegal migrants, who authorities believe arrived via Belarus.
Speaking to newspaper Bild am Sonntag, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said he was prepared to send further guard reinforcements to the border with Poland, which the German federal police described as a “hotspot” for illegal crossings.
Ever-growing migrant flows began pouring into the EU from Belarus after its leader, Alexander Lukashenko, announced in late May that the country would no longer prevent migrants from crossing into neighboring EU nations, after Brussels had imposed crippling sanctions on Minsk.
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The EU refuses to talk to Lukashenko and accuses him of weaponizing migrants in a bid to put pressure on Europe. Authorities in Minsk, in turn, claim they simply do not have the resources to effectively manage the border as the West’s sweeping sanctions are adversely affecting Belarus’ economy.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International has raised the alarm over what it describes as the cruel treatment of migrants at the hands of the Polish military and police. The NGO claims Polish security forces have used brute force on multiple occasions to push migrants back into Belarusian territory, violating their rights.
An unknown number of migrants remain sandwiched between Polish and Belarusian border guards, living in harsh conditions. In early September, Poland declared a state of emergency at the border, meaning humanitarian groups and journalists were prevented from gaining access to the migrants. So far, eight migrant deaths have been reported there, with the latest case involving a 19-year-old Syrian who drowned when trying to cross a river last week.
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