Protesters chained themselves to the fence surrounding the headquarters of Poland's Border Guards and put barbed wire on top of the fence to protest the government's refusal to let in a group of illegal migrants, in Warsaw , Poland, Monday, Aug. 23, 2021. AP
The UN refugee agency on Tuesday urged Poland to take in a group of migrants believed to be from Iraq and Afghanistan who have been stranded on the border with Belarus for more than two weeks.
Thousands of migrants -- mostly from the Middle East -- have crossed the border from Belarus into the eastern EU states of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in recent months.
Brussels believes the influx is being deliberately engineered by the regime in Minsk in retaliation against EU sanctions -- an accusation that Belarus denies -- and Poland has called it a "hybrid attack" on the bloc.
Poland has said it will not allow the migrants in, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki saying that this would be giving in to "blackmail" from Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko.
Morawiecki insisted on Tuesday that the migrants "are on the Belarusian side of the border. Belarus is responsible for these groups".
"If someone on the Belarusian side wants to apply for refugee status, please do so in Minsk," he added.
Around 30 migrants have set up a makeshift encampment just inside Belarus near the Polish village of Usnarz Gorny between lines of Belarusian and Polish military personnel.
"We call on the Polish authorities to provide access to territory, immediate medical assistance, legal advice and psychological support to these people," Christine Goyer, UNHCR representative in Poland, said in a statement.
"According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which Poland is signatory, people seeking asylum should never be penalised, even for irregular border crossing," Goyer said.
The UNHCR said it was "concerned by the alarming reports regarding a group of several dozens of people" at the border, adding that they were believed to be from Afghanistan and Iraq and may require medical attention and international protection.
The Polish government has announced its intention to build a 2.5-metre (8-feet) high barbed wire fence along a third of its border to prevent further arrivals, with work to begin in the next few days.
"States have the legitimate right to manage their borders in accordance with international law, however, they must also respect human rights, including the right to seek asylum," the UNHCR statement said.