Poland prepares for Belarus refugees after violent crackdown

Poland is bracing itself for an influx of people from neighbouring Belarus after a violent crackdown on post-election protests there but wants to maintain border security, deputy foreign minister Marcin Przydacz said on Friday.

The protesters accuse President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the country for 26 years, of rigging last Sunday’s presidential election to win a sixth term.

Thousands have been arrested, with reports of torture being widespread. "People are being beaten up, tortured from the moment when they are detained in the streets," one man told CNN on condition of anonymity. "Then they are taken to local police station, beaten there and then they bring them here after a day or two, and the beatings and torture continue."

Przydacz told the Catholic radio station Siodma9 “We have already reviewed the law, so as to also be prepared for a possible wave of people who want to get to the territory of the EU,”

“You need to consider support for people who need to pass the border quickly, but we must be responsible for our European partners, that is, the Schengen border.”

EU foreign ministers will on Friday discuss their response to the crackdown, and diplomats and officials say new sanctions are likely to be imposed later this month.

Andrej Babis, prime minister of the Czech Republic, Poland’s southwestern neighbour, said on Friday that Belarus must rerun its election with foreign observers present.

Polish President’s Andrzej Duda’s top aide Andrzej Dera made a similar demand.

“If Belarus wants to move towards democracy, these elections should be repeated,” Dera told the private broadcaster TVN24, according to the state news agency PAP.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki is due to publish a plan on Friday to help Belarus, whose 9.5 million people include between 300,000 and 1.2 million of Polish origin, according to different estimates.

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