Polish mothers protest migrant pushbacks at Belarus border

Michałowo (Poland) (AFP) – Chanting "shame" and "no one is illegal", Polish mothers rallied near the border with Belarus on Saturday to protest pushbacks of children and other migrants trying to cross into the EU.


"We can't stand idly by when children are spending weeks in cold, wet, dark forests on Polish territory -- without food, drink and access to shelter," the event organisers said on Facebook.

Thousands of migrants, mostly from the Middle East, have tried to cross the border since August -- an unprecedented influx that the EU suspects Belarus is masterminding as retaliation against EU sanctions.

Poland has sent thousands of troops to the border, built a razor-wire fence and implemented a three-month state of emergency in the immediate border area that bans journalists and charity workers.

The protesters carrying signs with slogans such as "Border of Death" and "Fear God Not Refugees" called on the Polish government to scrap the border ban so that the migrants could receive help.

They also accused the border guards of forcing migrants back across the border in so-called "pushbacks" and demanded the government put an end to the practice.

"We feel for the people in the forest," said Sylwia Chorazy, one of a couple of hundred protesters at the border guard facility in Michalowo, eastern Poland.

"My sons asked me this morning, 'Mum, what if we too had to spend the night in the woods?'. It's sad, incredibly sad," she told AFP.

The protest took place in Michalowo, which made headlines earlier this month when border guards there sent a group of mostly migrant children and women back into the forest despite pleas for asylum.