While Poland has been effective at stopping Russia and Belarus from pushing migrants into Poland, there are signs this form of hybrid warfare is not yet finished.
Migrants are increasingly entering Lithuania, and the Polish government is looking at Russia’s attempts to create a new migration corridor from Kaliningrad with anxiety. Kaliningrad is not connected to the Russian mainland but lies north of Poland on the Baltic coast.
Data provided by the Polish Border Guard shows that the wall on the border with Belarus has experienced significantly reduced crossings.
“Last year we had 800 attempts to cross the border daily, now it is at almost 120,” the spokeswoman for the Border Guard, Anna Michalska, said. She also noted that the most important part of the barrier, the electronic detection systems, is still not completed. This technology will allow law enforcement to monitor the approach to the border in real-time.
However, the statistics given by the Border Guard are not only related to the barrier but also to the fact that Russia and Belarus have significantly limited their hybrid operations compared to 2021.
Nevertheless, the situation is still far from normalized. Poland has never had to deal with a migrant crisis on such a scale before. In 2020, only 122 attempts to cross the border illegally were recorded, while in 2019 this figure was 20 and in 2018, there were just three attempts.
In response to the barrier, migrants are attempting to forge new routes, including heading to Lithuania first in their effort to reach Poland — 600 migrants were detained on the border with Lithuania who had initially crossed from Belarus into Lithuania this year, compared to 317 in 2021.
However, it is the Polish border with the Kaliningrad region that is currently most concerning for the government, as the Kaliningrad Airport has signed agreements with the so-called affiliate states of Turkey, Syria, and Belarus. The Kaliningrad.ru portal now reports that the airport authorities plan to open routes to Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Ethiopia.
Poland’s government is taking measures to secure its border with Russia. The Ministry of Internal Affairs notes that funds for construction of an electronic barrier on the Polish-Russian border have been reserved for the next year.