WARSAW (Reuters) – The EU must be prepared to face an increase of migrants trying to enter the bloc, with the arrival of many from the Middle East through Belarus set to continue for a long time, Fabrice Leggeri, director of the EU border agency Frontex, said on Friday.
The European Union accuses Minsk of creating the crisis as part of a “hybrid attack” on the bloc – distributing Belarusian visas in the Middle East, flying in the migrants and pushing them to cross the border illegally.
“We can see from our risk analysis that all the factors that triggered this crisis are still in place and that things are not moving or not deescalating…We have to be ready to have to face this situation for a long time,” Leggeri told Reuters in an interview.
The Polish Border Guard said over 17,000 illegal attempts to cross the border were made in October, more than double the number of attempts in September, and thousands of migrants are still camping out near Belarus’ border with Poland.
To date, Poland has refused additional support in the form of Frontex border guards, arguing it has a sufficiently large border force of its own to do the job. The government has faced criticism for not allowing Frontex to help deal with the crisis.
Leggeri said that even though Frontex has not sent boots on the ground to support Poland amidst escalating tensions at its border with Belarus, the agency is discussing sharing additional satellite imagery with the country.
It also plans to help Poland return migrants to their home countries, like Iraq.
Leggeri noted that the crisis at the border was geopolitical and that Frontex was an operational agency. He said a political decision was needed to figure out what support countries like Poland might need.
(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Yara Abi Nader; editing by Diane Craft and David Gregorio)