Polish minister denies ‘pushing back’ Eritrean pregnant women at border

Poland has denied that a pregnant Eritrean woman gave birth alone on the Poland-Belarus border after activists claimed they were “pushed back” by soldiers.

Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Duszczyk told the BBC that the woman had come to the Polish border with her newborn baby and was taken to hospital.

But activists said she had previously attempted to enter Poland and had been in the forested border area for a month.

Poland’s new government has declared a “more humane” border policy.

But activists say Polish border guards continue to push back migrants attempting to cross from Belarus. Poland has accused Belarus of encouraging the influx of migrants as an act of “hybrid warfare”.

Duszczyk said it is virtually impossible for a woman to live in the forest for a month in extreme cold and give birth alone.

He said border guards found her and took her to hospital in Hainufka, near the border.

However, Adam Barwinski from Grupa Granica, an organization of activists and human rights defenders that supports people trying to cross the border, told the BBC that the 38-year-old woman was approached by Polish soldiers after crossing the border fence. However, he said he told the group that he had left it there. She was refused entry to Poland.

Barwinski said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, had been traveling for years “looking for a safe place” and spent several years in refugee camps in Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda before coming to the Polish border from Belarus. I spent . According to Grupa Granica, she gave birth alone in the forest.

“This drama has to end. No one should be forced to give birth under these conditions,” Barwinski said.

On Saturday, activists said she had been released from the hospital and was staying in her apartment with her baby.

Duszczyk denied that President Donald Tusk’s government was holding back, saying its top priority was “zero deaths at the border.”

“When the Eritrean mother and child were taken by soldiers at the border and sent to hospital, they sought international protection and we have initiated proceedings under EU law,” he said.

“We are doing our best to help teenagers and women, and since January this year we have received 350 migrants seeking international protection,” he added.

In January, more than 100 NGOs and 500 activists and cultural figures urged Mr. Tusk to end his opposition, saying that if he did not, the government would be condoning human rights abuses.

But fellow Grupa Granica activist Iwo Ros said the practice continued.

His organization said the Border Patrol has turned back more than 1,700 people since December. Approximately 25 of these people are still missing and five have been confirmed dead.

Mr Duszczyk said the Polish government was facing a “systematic and instrumental migration war” being waged by Belarus.

Poland claims that Belarus has been encouraging people from the Middle East and Africa to travel to Belarus and then cross the border illegally into Poland since 2021.

In 2021, the European Union accused Belarus’ authoritarian leader Alexander Lukashenko of facilitating the influx in retaliation for sanctions.

“We are trying to combine security and humanitarianism, protecting our borders in accordance with EU law,” Duszczyk said.

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