The Defence Secretary has confirmed that 150 British soldiers are being sent to Poland to help with the migrant crisis on the border with Belarus.
By William Hallowell, CP News Reporter.
In the last week, tensions have risen on the Poland-Belarus border as large numbers of migrants are attempting to cross over into the EU member-state.
Ben Wallace, UK Defence Secretary, has confirmed that 150 Royal Engineers are being sent to Poland to help deal with the crisis, but said that they are “guys with diggers” as opposed to combat troops.
Mr Wallace said:
“What we will do is send some Royal Engineers – that is part of the Army designed for building or making fences or roads or putting in infrastructure.
“We are going to be using that part of our forces to help the Poles and potentially other Baltic states to secure their border.”
However, he made clear that the engineers will not be fulfilling any combat role but “[building] roads and checkpoints and observation posts.”
The former Scots Guards officer also said:
“I’m particularly worried for the women and children and the vulnerable people who are being trafficked by the Belarusians into this game they seem to be playing.
“It’s a horrendous thing to do to force migrants to be a tool in a game to try to destabilise their neighbours.
“The best way to respond is to work together hand in hand, not only within NATO, but simply as good friends and partners.”
Mr Wallace has also accused Belarus’ President, Alexander Lukashenko, of a “disgusting attempt to use people as a weapon”.
Polish forces have set up barbed-wire fences to help curb the problem, and have so far used both water cannons and tear-gas to help keep migrants back.
As well as the 150 British soldiers, 100 Estonian troops are also being sent to the border to help Poland deal with the crisis.
Kalle Laanet, Estonian Defence Minister, has warned that the current crisis could turn into a military one.
“The potential for escalation is extremely high” and that they “have to monitor very deeply every day the situation.”
In the last month alone, 5,000 people have attempted to cross the border, compared to 88 in the whole of last year.
Reportedly, 13 migrants have died so far.