European Refugee Crisis: Refugees head to the EU through Belarus - DW

13:55 Aug. 12, 2016

Refugees head to the EU through Belarus - DW

Children rest in hammocks at a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees situated meters away from the Serbian border with Hungary, in Horgos, Serbia, Monday, July 4, 2016 ()

The flood of refugees coming to the EU through the Belarus city of Brest is growing. One can see them in trains between Belarus and Poland every day

Lately, it has become difficult to get a ticket for the morning train from Brest to Terespol. The train is the quickest and cheapest way to travel from Belarus to the first train station in Poland. Previously, the train consisted of three or four cars. Meanwhile, it has eight. Most of the tickets sold each day are purchased by people from the Caucasus and other former Soviet Republics in Central Asia.

Read also More than one million Ukrainians displaced by conflict

These throngs are affecting more than just railway workers. Controls by border protection agents at the Brest train station have also had to be increased. And more police are present at the customs area in the train station's entrance hall. Similar measures have been taken at the arrivals area in Terespol, Poland. Most of those that have had their asylum requests denied in Poland, and thus have to return to Belarus, are processed here.

Refugees rather than small retailers

According to Belarus border guards, the route to Poland has been the country's busiest in the first six months of 2016. In all, 3.6 million people have crossed the border. While the flow of small retailers continues to recede, the flood of refugees seeking to reach the EU through Belarus has been rising. Between January and June of this year alone some 17,000 people that could be considered refugees have crossed the Polish border near Brest. These have mostly been people from Chechnya.

Read also Global forced displacement hits record high - UNHCR

Belarus border patrol spokesman Alexander Tishchenko says that his agency is not entitled to verify whether travellers possess a Schengen visa.

"We have no right to keep Russian citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, from leaving Belarus as long as they possess the appropriate documents, have not committed a crime and are not being sought by authorities. The same goes for Georgian citizens. We have visa-free travel agreements with these countries," says Tishchenko.

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