Kommersant correspondent Marianna Belenkaya visited the border of Belarus and Poland and met refugees trying to break through to Europe. Who are they and what do they want? How did you get to Belarus? What is the role of the Belarusian authorities in this crisis? Watch the video or read the text version below.
How many migrants are at the border
From 2 thousand to 4 thousand I would stop in this range. Because people constantly come, and someone, even in a small stream, leaves. But mostly they arrive.
For example, another group came before our eyes. There were ten of them.
Who are they and where did they come from
First of all, these are the Iraqi Kurds. Iraqi Kurdistan is northern Iraq, partly an autonomous part of the country. There are people from Iraq itself, from the south, where the situation is not very good now.
I also came across several Syrians. Colleagues still met Lebanese and Afghans, but I didn’t get them. 90–95% are Iraqi Kurds.
Demographic composition – men aged 20-30. But there are also many family people with small children. Pregnant women and children are literally from babies for a couple of months, a month and further in ascending order.
How much does it cost them to get to Belarus
A package of documents per person to apply for a visa, a ticket, some kind of escort, a couple of nights in a hotel in Minsk cost them about $ 3 thousand per person. From $ 2.5 thousand and more, but on average somewhere around $ 3 thousand. There are very large families – a person with five children. This is already $ 18 thousand for a family.
And all of them at the same time complain about the difficult economic situation from which they are fleeing.
I asked: where did the money come from? They said from the series – here he worked, worked all his life, or sold a car, sold a house, and was about to leave for the last.
Most of them are middle class. Many people say they have a college degree. But some guys are younger, right after school and just worked somewhere. Such a middle and lower middle class.
What are the living conditions in their camp
Someone has already arrived with sleeping bags. Many say that they have already bought equipment in Belarus. There are a lot of identical and similar tents, also obviously bought here.
On the first day there were some supplies of food, but small, no one expected it to be long. Complained that they did not have enough water and food. But from the second day, the Belarusian authorities, the Belarusian Red Cross, and other public organizations brought humanitarian aid. Five tons of humanitarian aid was delivered. This is milk, canned meat, I saw sausages, water, blankets and some medicines are minimal.
The guys said that they literally raked their first-aid kits out of the cars there, because they needed iodine, brilliant green, bandages. There are not enough medicines. There are a lot of pregnant women and small children, everybody coughs there is no provision for all medications.
From time to time, when someone gets sick, an ambulance comes. Not as fast, of course, as we would like, and there is no doctor on duty there, but of course, not every doctor on duty is ready to meet there, because – a pregnant woman, there is anything, maybe.
Several pregnant women are in a very serious condition, and the children are just – that cough is just like that for everyone. It is very cold in the camp.
The tents are different, there are light tents, someone made huts for themselves. Bonfires are made: no sleeping bag will save you especially on these cold nights. They try to lie around small fires. Someone alone throughout the night takes turns supporting the fire so that it does not go out.
Grodno Vodokanal provided them with several cars with water. But it is clear that all this is, very hastily done. It’s good that it exists, somehow. Otherwise, of course, people would already be dying of hunger and cold.
How Poles behave with migrants
Along the camp there are literally on every half meter people in uniform, in helmets, with full ammunition and it is clear that, if someone wants to break through the border, a tough rebuff will be given.
A little far away on the hill there are a lot of cars, police cars, trucks in which soldiers are usually brought. Constantly pass along the barbed wire patrols
For understanding, some of the tents are already on Polish territory, but up to the barbed wire, that is, behind the Polish border posts, but up to the barbed wire. And the Poles are all behind the barbed wire. That is no direct contact, if this border is not broken.
During the day, they behave quite quietly. But refugees say that at night the Poles turn on their headlights, shine, well, check what is in the camp. They turn on the loudspeakers with the words: go away.
Some refugees said that they were sent SMS. They calculate using Iraqi roaming numbers and send messages: Belarusians are deceiving you, leave, return home.
Are Belarusian authorities helping migrants to get to the border?
The Poles believe that the Belarusian authorities made it clear to the refugees that the borders would open and they would be able to pass through Belarus to Europe. Really refugees are surprised and shocked that the border is closed. They did not expect to find themselves in front of closed borders.
You can blame them for being naive, but they have a completely different psychology, different ideas about the world.
Responsibility of the Belarusian authorities in the ease with which these people obtain visas. They receive through the firm, they do not go directly to the embassy or consulate themselves. Here they are met by people at the airport, they say that we kind of help, like volunteers. But obviously, these are representatives of the diaspora who have been living here for a long time in Belarus.
As for the escort to the border – this is definitely not the case. People get there on their own. They take a taxi themselves, if it’s a large group, they pay for the bus and go to the border.
They will find out where to go in chats. Who runs these chats, who issues the point, it is impossible to understand.
The Belarusian authorities do not bother them.
Where do migrants want to go
They are unanimous that do not want to stay in Poland or Lithuania. They say, just open the borders, we will pass through Poland and Lithuania, and that’s it.
Further, the majority calls Germany, some told me about England. I don’t know, maybe they don’t know more countries or they just have friends who live there.
Many said that our friends went there literally three weeks ago in the same way. Everything worked out, and they are already in Germany. Others have relatives who have been living in Germany for five years.
Someone wants to study, someone wants to earn. Someone goes, simply believing in a better future, without specifics.