Polish Muslim Tatars helping migrants on the border of Belarus

Polish Muslim Tatars helping migrants on the border of Belarus
Photo: dw.com

The main reason for the emergence of uncontrolled flows of migrants in different parts of the world is the active intervention of the West in the affairs of other countries. This was stated by Secretary of the Security Council of Russia Nikolay Patrushev, adding that it is necessary to tackle the problem at the root to resolve the issue. Meanwhile, several thousand refugees on the border of Poland and Belarus asked for help from the Muslims of Russia, they applied to the Rosmigrant centre under the Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia. Karim Gaynullin, a columnist for Realnoe Vremya, writes in another article for our publication about how some refugees have already begun to return home, while others were helped by Muslims from an ancient Tatar village in eastern Poland.

Migrants in Belarus

The flow of illegal migrants through Belarus had surged long before it was talked about in Russia. In early November, the number of refugees reached several thousand people. Those of them who managed to get across the border into Poland were caught by Polish border guards and sent back. Anyway, the main target for migrants is, of course, not Poland and Belarus, but Germany.

The advantage of Germany for refugees is that it is most open to accepting migrants through granting them political asylum. In Germany itself, there are large diasporas of Kurds and Syrians who have already acquired connections and money and can support their compatriots — especially if they are relatives. However, in the conversation with Lukashenko on November 18, Merkel refused to accept migrants from the border.

It came to the point that Poland promised to start building a wall on the border with Belarus from December 15 — which is very similar to the idea of Donald Trump's project with the construction of a wall on the border with Mexico.

Besides, the UN expressed concern about the use of tear gas against migrants by the Polish side. However, there is a video on the Web of how migrants themselves attacked border guards, throwing stones and bottles at them.

Poland's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, after a meeting with Estonia's Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, announced the possibility of imposing large sanctions against Belarus, blaming the latter for the migration crisis. In turn, the Belarusian foreign minister rejected the accusations, calling them a lie.

Poland has promised to start building a wall on the border with Belarus from December 15. Photo: Intex-press.by

The life of migrants

Mostly migrants are residents of Syria and Iraq, among whom there are many Kurds, but there are also migrants from other countries — Iran, Afghanistan, Africa, even China. With and without families, men and women with young children.

Migrants take a taxi to the border, and then try to cross the road on foot. Of course, most of these attempts end in failure, and at best they fall into the hands of Polish border guards, who hand them over to Belarus.

For example, on one Saturday, November 20, Polish border guards sent back 350 migrants, and Lithuanian — 150 (according to the State Border Committee of the Republic of Belarus).

According to Poland, there are being about 3,500 people on the border. The Belarusian side does not allow migrants into the city, they are living in makeshift camps. At best, they buy a tent and some dry ration to feed themselves, but, of course, the conditions are still inhuman, especially for southerners in the Belarusian winter. Therefore, most of the migrants are residents of those territories where they understand that in the conditions of their native countries the probability of dying is higher than from the cold in the Belarusian forests.

However, it cannot be said that the Belarusian authorities remain indifferent to the lives of people: for example, a group of migrants was transferred to a special centre in Bruzgi under cover and with relatively good amenities. Logistics centres are former warehouses. Tents where migrants can buy food and cigarettes are located in the places where migrants are stationed.

In Belarus itself, prices for tents and camping supplies necessary for crossing the border have increased significantly. Businesses are also adapting: in the cities near the Polish border, they have already started duplicating signs in Arabic.

According to Poland, there are being about 3,500 people on the border. Photo: dw.com

Tatar factor

Many migrants have already decided to return back to Iraq. For example, on November 18, the Iraqi authorities reported about a group of more than 400 migrants who had registered for the Minsk-Erbil-Baghdad flight. Some experts believe that this was influenced by the aforementioned conversation between Lukashenko and Merkel.

Local Tatars also came to help in resolving the situation. Polish Muslims from the ancient Tatar village of Bohoniki in eastern Poland deliver basic necessities and hot food to both illegal immigrants and border guards.

On November 16, the village of Bohoniki became known all over the world: 19-year-old Syrian refugee Ahmed al-Hassan, who drowned while trying to swim across the river from Belarus to Poland, was buried there. In addition to local Tatar residents, Syrians-citizens of Poland participated in the ceremony and reading of the janazah (funeral) prayer. Muslim Tatars, who have traditionally lived in Poland for centuries, have declared their readiness to bury Muslims in their cemeteries.

The Muslims of Belarus, whose backbone is also represented by Tatars — relatives of Polish Tatars, did not stand aside either.

At the initiative of the Mufti of the Republic of Belarus Abu Bekir khazrat Shabanovich, the Belarusian muftiate regularly conducts actions to transfer humanitarian aid to refugees. The initiative was supported by the Orthodox and Catholic Churches in Belarus.

Finally, the migrants also turned to the Tatars of Russia for help, to the Rosmigrant centre under the Muslim Spiritual Board of Russia (Spiritual Assembly of Muslims of Russia). This was stated by Mufti Albir Krganov. However, Albir khazrat stressed that Rosmigrant cannot operate in another state, despite fraternal relations with Belarus.

Systemic problems

Behind the refugee crisis and “the offensive on Europe”, as experts present it, the main thing is hidden — how and from where migrants get the opportunity to move.

The claim that “savages” are fleeing from their countries of residence is untenable. Obviously, money is required for such a move. Of course, wealthy residents of the Middle East would hardly take such a risk. We are not talking about the richest, but also not the poorest people — those who have the opportunity to collect a minimum of money for the crossing.

The systemic problem is the existence of gray structures that provide services for such “trips”, which often turn into collapse: we are talking not only about forests on the border of Poland and Belarus, but also about illegal crossings across the Mediterranean Sea, where ships full of dozens of refugees regularly sink. The illegal business of transporting refugees is often associated with power and corruption schemes in Europe.

Refugees at the Minsk airport. Photo: bbc.com

In the current political conditions of the conflict between Minsk and the EU, a way has opened up for migrants much safer than crossing the Mediterranean Sea, where deaths are recorded on a regular basis. On November 21 alone, about 75 illegal migrants drowned near Libya. That is why the Belarusian way has become so attractive for refugees, because the only obstacle on their way is the border with Poland.

Karim Gaynullin

The author's opinion may not coincide with the position of the editorial board of Realnoe Vremya.