A Polish liberal MEP is making unsubstantiated claims that the Polish government has secret mass graves with migrant bodies near the Belarusian border, and that foresters are helping bury the bodies, a claim flatly rejected by a spokesman of the Polish forestry corporation, who is now suing the MEP for slander.
In an interview with commercial radio Tok FM, MEP Janina Ochojska said that there are “many more victims” of Poland’s border protection efforts than those deaths that have already been recorded. She then referred to what are likely “some mass graves” and said that she would not be surprised if the “bodies were collected so that there is no evidence” when Poland declared a state of emergency at the border, which restricted access to the area.
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She claimed the number of missing people to be around 300 and that some of them may still be in the forests near the border. She further claimed that foresters were collecting these bodies, as she said that during the emergency, foresters had been called into the area from all over Poland, and she did not understand why they were being sent there.
Michał Gozowski, the spokesman for the Polish forestry corporation responsible for the management of Polish forests, has said his institution will be suing the Polish MEP for slander. He said that Ochojska had disgraced herself and behaved shamefully and that he was reporting the matter to the prosecutors.
Rafał Bochenek, spokesman for the ruling conservatives, also slammed the MEP’s slurs. He said that Ochojska had chosen the road of lies and hate, which “were detrimental to Poland’s image on the international stage.”
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In the summer of 2021, the Polish border with Belarus became a battleground for attempted illegal crossings of migrants from Asia and Africa. The Belarusian authorities and border guards assisted the migrants in reaching the border and in trying to cross it, which is why Poland accused the Belarusian government of “hybrid warfare” due to Poland’s support for the Belarusian opposition protesting the results of the Belarusian presidential election in 2020.
Poland responded to the migrant crisis by constructing a barrier at the border and restricting access to the area. It has also blocked some border crossings after migrants attempted to storm these points. A state of emergency in the border area was declared in December 2021 and lasted until June 2022, but most of the restrictions have now been lifted.
In March of this year alone, the Polish Border authority reported around 600 attempts to illegally cross the border from Belarus. February witnessed around 1,500 such attempts, and in January, that figure was 1,400.