British man arrested in Poland accused of smuggling migrants across the Belarus border after wild night in which guards were pelted with rocks and two Syrian brothers suffering hypothermia were rescued
- British man arrested in Poland accused of smuggling migrants across border
- Police say he was caught with eight Iraqis in his car near the town of Wierrzch
- Came amid a wild night on the frontier as Polish guards were pelted with rocks, one of whom was taken to hospital, with 118 attempts to cross foiled
- Two Syrian brothers also rescued from border region suffering hypothermia
A British man has been arrested in Poland accused of smuggling migrants across the border from Belarus.
The man, who was not named, was arrested by officers near the town of Wierrzch carrying eight Iraqis in his car, Polish police said on Monday.
He was one of four foreigners arrested on suspicion of people smuggling, officers said, with a Swede, a German and a Ukrainian also detained.
News of the arrest broke after a wild night on the frontier during which border guards were pelted with rocks with 118 attempts to cross the fence foiled.
Two Syrian brothers were also rescued from woodland close to the village of Bielsk Podlaski, in Poland, suffering advanced stages of hypothermia.
Polish police say a British man was among four foreigners arrested overnight accused of smuggling Iraqi migrants across the border from Belarus (pictured, the border region today)
It came after a wild night on the frontier with guards pelted by rocks, one of whom was taken to hospital (pictured, the border fence last night)
Aid workers rescued two Syrian men – identified as brothers Kader, 39 (pictured), and Loas, 41, who were found in the forest on the Polish side of the border suffering hypothermia
Rescuers said the two men had been wandering in the forest for four days, and were found too weak to stand and barely able to speak
Polish aid workers said the pair, who they identified as 39-year-old Kader and 41-year-old Loas from the Syrian city of Homs, were barely conscious and largely unable to speak when they were discovered late on Sunday.
The pair had been wandering for four days in the forest having apparently crossed from Belarus near the town of Białowieża, 30 miles from where they were found, their rescuers added..
Volunteers with the Salvation Foundation said the men alerted them to their plight with a phone call during which they sounded disoriented, before they were eventually located after and hours-long search.
Police and ambulance workers were called to the scene, and took the pair to a nearby hospital. Their current condition is unknown.
It comes after the body of a young Syrian man was found close to the border Sunday, with fears many more could die as winter sets in.
Also taken to hospital overnight was a border guard struck with a rock, though their injuries are not thought to be serious. A police car was also damaged.
Polish officers said a total of 47 migrants were arrested after making illegal crossings into the country – with a ‘smuggler’s grotto’ found close to the border at Białystok.
They said five people were arrested there, three of them illegally residing in Poland, with six cars seized. It is unclear whether the arrested of the foreign smugglers is related to this discovery.
Maciej Wąsik, the Polish Secretary of State, said Monday that there are now an estimated 4,000 migrants at the border – concentrated at the Kuznica crossing.
He said groups of between 50 and 100 are making regular ‘attacks’ on the border fence in an attempt to get through, which he said were being carried out ‘under the care of’ Belarusian border guards.
But he vowed that Polish guards – including some 2,000 police and 15,000 soldiers – will continue holding the migrants back from reaching the EU.
‘We have to show [Belarus dictator] Lukashenko that the Polish border is tight, that we will not succumb to any pressure,’ he said on Monday.
‘If we give in now, we will give in next time.’
European leaders accuse Lukashenko of funnelling migrants to the border as part of a cynical plot to try and destabilise the bloc using vulnerable people as a weapon.
They say the strongman leader has spent months luring people to Belarus on the false promise of passage into Europe, before pushing them to the border and forcing them to make illegal crossings.
Belarus soldiers, who have been accused of trying to provoke a confrontation with Polish troops, marshal migrants close to the border
Belarus denies orchestrating the crisis, saying the people are legitimate migrants who should be granted access to the EU (pictured, guards hand out food)
Poland has vowed to defend Europe’s eastern borders from Lukashenko’s attempts at using vulnerable people as a weapon, saying: ‘If we give in now, we will give in next time’
While the main crisis is focused on the Polish border, neighbors Latvia and Lithuania have also reported an uptick in attempted crossings while there are fears Lukashenko could also start pushing people into Ukraine.
The plot is thought to be revenge for EU sanctions on Belarus levied after Lukashenko hijacked a Ryanair flight to arrest a journalist, and for supporting pro-democracy protests against his regime.
Lukashenko is being backed by close ally Vladimir Putin, who some suspect is the true architect of the scheme.
Separately, the US has accused Putin of preparing for a possible invasion of Ukraine after massing tanks, troops and artillery pieces on the border.
Washington fears Putin could march troops into the country’s restive eastern regions in an attempt to seize territory as he did in 2014 with the annexation of Ukraine.
Ukraine has been fighting a years-long war in the Donbass and Luhansk regions against Russian-backed separatist groups.
On Sunday, General Sir Nick Carter – head of the British armed forces – warned the West must be prepared for war with Russia if the crisis spills over into ‘something really serious’.
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