President declares state of emergency in Poland's border regions

2021-09-02 19:02 update: 2021-09-06, 12:59
Andrzej Duda Fot. PAP/Radek Pietruszka
Andrzej Duda Fot. PAP/Radek Pietruszka
Andrzej Duda, the Polish president, has declared a state of emergency in areas close to the country’s Belarusian border owing to an alleged attempt by Belarus to destabilise Poland by pushing migrants across the border.

"Today the president took the decision to issue a regulation on introducing a state of emergency on the territory indicated in a motion by the Council of Ministers," Blazej Spychalski, the president’s spokesman, said. "It is more or less a three-kilometre strip of the Lubelskie and Podlaskie provinces that is on the border of Poland and Belarus."

The state of emergency will last for 30 days, and the president's decision must still be approved by parliament.

In recent weeks Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have observed increasing numbers of migrants crossing into their territories from Belarus. The three countries have accused Belarus of deliberately sending migrants across their borders in an effort to destabilise the EU.

The Interior Ministry said some 3,000 people had attempted to illegally enter Poland in August.

Spychalski added that the decision had been "thoroughly analysed" including by teams of advisors, and that the regulation was being sent for publication in the Journal of Laws as well as to Sejm (lower house) Speaker Elzbieta Witek. 

"In line with the constitution, that presidential regulation must go to a vote and debate in the Polish parliament," he explained. 

The state of emergency will cover 183 localities in the border zone, and will ban all tourist excursions, cultural and mass events and demonstrations in those areas in order to allow border guards, the army and police to monitor the border more effectively.

The government wrote on its website that all residents over the age of 18 in areas covered by the state of emergency laws would be obliged to carry personal identification in public areas while minors would have to carry a school identification card. Also restricted are the rights to carry firearms and possess ammunition and explosives. 

Blazej Pobozy, the deputy interior minister, announced on Wednesday that, despite the fact that the law on the state of emergency envisages a number of limitations regarding civic rights and freedoms, this did not mean that all of them would be enforced. 

He said that they would be limited to a necessary minimum.  

Mariusz Kaminski, the interior minister, said on Thursday following the announcement of the president's decision that Poland would not allow the security of its citizens living near the Belarusian border to be endangered.  (PAP)