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EU showdown: Von der Leyen under pressure over border wall 'war' as migration soars

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The EU Commission President said last week that “there will be no funding of barbed wire and walls”, after being urged by 12 member states to issue EU funds for the project. But Mrs von der Leyen is still under pressure to cave as the number of migrants coming from Belarus to the bloc fails to subdue.

The leader of the European People’s Party in the EU Parliament, Manfred Weber, is the latest to call on the Commission chief to change tactics on the issue.

He told Politico: “For the EPP group in the European Parliament it is very difficult to understand why the EU cannot finance a physical fence along the Belarus border.

“There is a hybrid war going on, we should not be naive.

“It is a question of defending ourselves and making sure that we decide who is allowed to enter into Europe, and not dictator Lukashenko.”

Mr Weber added countries like Lithuania, Latvia and Poland deserve “our full support … and that includes mobilising funds for the construction of a physical border.”

Polish authorities say more than 15,000 attempts to cross the border have been made since early August, mostly by Iraqi, Afghan and Syrian nationals.

The attempts have become more frequent and now exceed 500 a day.

Under EU rules, migrants should in principle apply for asylum in the first country they enter, but the bloc is planning reforms to ensure asylum obligations are more evenly spread.

Franek Sterczewski, a Polish parliamentary deputy with leading opposition group Civic Coalition, said more migrants were being turned back by border guards into the woods.

“(The Somali migrants) were sent back to the border seven times,” he said.

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The European Union accuses Belarus of orchestrating the flow to put pressure on the bloc in retaliation for sanctions slapped on Minsk over human rights abuses.

Poland is increasing the number of troops on its border with Belarus to around 10,000, its defence minister said on Monday.

“We are increasing the number of soldiers helping the Border Guard by 2,5000,” Mariusz Blaszczak wrote on Twitter. “Soon, about 10,000 soldiers from the 12th, 16th and 18th divisions will be watching over the security of the border.”

The Border Guard said that over the weekend groups of about 60 or 70 migrants had twice attempted to force their way through the border and two Polish soldiers had been injured.

“As a result of these events, two Polish soldiers were hospitalised, one of them was hit in the face with a stone, the other with a branch,” Border Guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska told a news conference. “These people are not in any danger, they have left hospital.”

Poland has declared a state of emergency in the region and plans to build a wall on the border.

The Polish parliament has also passed legislation that human rights advocates say aims to legalise pushbacks of migrants across its borders in breach of the country’s commitments under international law.



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