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Poland-Belarus border conflict: "Don't you see how dangerous that is?"

The number of migrants on the Polish-Belarusian border has been increasing for weeks. But although almost all of them want to continue to Germany, there is hardly any debate in this country about the local situation. Norbert Kleinwächter (deputy chairman of the AfD parliamentary group) was the first and so far only German politician to head east to get an idea of ​​the local situation.

Mr. Kleinwächter, how did your trip to the Polish-Belarusian border come about?

I wanted to know what was really going on there and talk to the people who were responsible on site. Poland is our neighboring country and very important to us, but instead of talking to Poland, the government and the media in Germany talk about it far too often. I wanted to know what is true of the image of the “bad boy” who constantly violates the rule of law, is responsible for illegal “pushbacks”, forbids women to have abortions and will soon be on a par with Lukashenko and Putin. And I wanted to find out what exactly was happening at the border.

Solutions can only be found together, and the AfD as a constructive force wants to participate. That's why I organized this trip myself at relatively short notice and was able to make appointments with district administrators, local mayors and politicians in Warsaw. The Poles were very open. Many were happy that someone was finally interested in the problem. In a television interview, a Polish journalist told me why: I was the first German politician ever to look at the situation on the ground. No one else came.

Which sections of the border were you able to visit?

I was in the Kużnica – Krynki – Sokółka triangle, east of Białystok. Of course, this is only part of the long Polish-Belarusian border. The area is ideal for illegally entering the EU. Because there is a lot of forest there. No flow prevents the page change. Many private properties stretch to the limit. That makes it very difficult for the police, because there is nowhere a classic border strip. This is also due to the history of the country, because until 1945 there was no border here. What is western Belarus today was then eastern Poland. At this point, Warsaw wants to erect a border fence that will report every movement. Then the police can be deployed right there and no longer have to be everywhere at the same time. Later I drove to Terespol via Kleszczele and looked at the situation on the river border on the Bug.

What did you see?

What I saw on site honestly shocked me. The Polish police are doing everything they can to protect the EU's external border. However, the use of firearms is absolutely taboo. There is a three-kilometer-wide exclusion zone at the border and controls at almost all road crossings. Anyone who is caught is sent to a reception center. There the migrants, who are often hungry, freezing and abused by people smugglers, are being cared for in a humane manner for the first time in months. But there is also a lot of violence. Border installations are destroyed, the mood among migrants is tense, often aggressive. And don't forget: the Polish population is extremely insecure. Many are afraid.

Where do the migrants come from? And what motivates you to take this route?

It's a mixed bag of nationalities. Many come from Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan. Most of them entered Belarus legally and have a valid visa in their passport. The wave of migration thus becomes de facto a hybrid warfare by Lukashenko against the EU. Professional tractors in particular benefit from this. The ticket to the EU costs around 10,000 euros per person. Many migrants are provided with so much money by the villages they come from. The reason behind this is that social benefits will soon flow back from Germany or that entire large families will be able to join them.

There are also rumors about Moscow's role. Many speculate that the foreign uniformed men who keep appearing and who are still providing the migrants with tools and tips in Belarus are being controlled by Putin. So far there is no evidence of this.

Do men or families tend to cross the border?

Of course it is mostly men. We already know that from the past few years. As a rule, only the strong make it up to this point or those who have been given a lot of money. The Polish secret service also has frightening information. Some of the migrants are in direct contact with IS. This was the result of the analysis of numerous cell phone data in the border area. So there are obviously new terrorists on the march again.

How does Poland deal with asylum seekers?

As provided in a constitutional state. Every asylum seeker is looked after and given accommodation. Then a due process follows. Nobody is turned away or judged across the board and hastily. Anyone who can prove a reason for asylum, i.e. who is really persecuted, is allowed to stay - but only in Poland because they applied for asylum here. Anyone who has left their home without need or comes from a safe third country will have to go back again. These proceedings are currently ongoing. It remains to be seen how Belarus will deal with migrants deported from Poland.

What is Poland's cooperation with Germany like?

According to German diplomats, the conversation is ongoing. That affects the governments, but also the police. However, beyond these channels and already existing cooperation, for example on the German-Polish border, there is no concrete cooperation aimed at stopping the wave of refugees from Belarus. Germany has also offered policemen to assist Poland. But then of course they are missing elsewhere. So another solution has to be found.

And what can it look like?

The Poles do not understand why, despite the experiences from 2015, we continue to send the signal internationally that everyone is allowed to come to Germany, receive plenty of care there and not have to be afraid of having to leave the country again. Regardless of whether there is a reason for asylum or not. The question I have been asked repeatedly was: “Do you not see how dangerous all this is?” What was meant was migration. The opinion is unanimous: The level of German social benefits for migrants is far too high. That attracts the completely wrong people. We urgently need to change something here: benefits in kind instead of money and deportation instead of toleration if there is no reason for asylum.

In your opinion, how should our country behave in a specific case?

Without exception, Germany must deport all migrants who entered via Belarus. Anyone who is really being persecuted should submit their application in the EU country they entered first. Those who are not persecuted are not refugees. This is the only way to drain Lukashenko's hybrid warfare with humans as weapons. For that to happen, a lot has to change in Germany. We have to give up the absurd claim to save the whole world from whatever. Those who are really persecuted must be protected. But if you just want to be better off economically than at home - without wanting to do anything yourself - you are wrong with us. A policy that promotes such a thing destabilizes the EU.

Do you think that the problem on the Polish-Belarusian border is temporary or will persist?

The question is when the Poles will burst and they will simply pass the masses of migrants through to us. Then the problem shifts to the west and we have to solve it on our own. We still have the chance to prevent that. In principle, it is very simple: If the federal government makes it clear that not everyone is allowed to stay here and receive full care, then the migrants no longer have any incentive to pay expensive smugglers to bring them to the promised land. At that moment, calm will return to the EU's eastern border. Police checks and fences are then superfluous.

The interview was conducted by René Nehring.

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