Supreme Court rules to EPA needs Congress approval to set standards, Gives Biden thumbs up to end ‘Remain in Mexico policy’

Important Takeaways:

  • Supreme Court Issues Final Rulings, Curbs EPA Overreach, Gives Biden the OK to End ‘Remain in Mexico’
  • The most high-profile case today was about U.S. immigration policy. The Court said President Biden has the right to end the “Remain in Mexico” policy which was a Trump administration rule that allowed asylum seekers to be deported while they waited for their cases to be heard.
    • The policy was quite effective at stemming the flood of migrants at the border. Four months after it was put in place, detentions at the border declined more than 60 percent.
  • Court Tells EPA to Back Off
    • The high court also issued a ruling about government overreach, clarifying the separation of powers
    • The justices ruled 6-3 that the Environmental Protection Agency, which is currently controlled by the Biden administration, doesn’t have the power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from power plants unless Congress gives it the clear authority to do so.
    •  “Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day’”
    • But he further explained, “A decision of such magnitude and consequence rests with Congress itself, or an agency acting pursuant to a clear delegation from that representative body.”
  • And finally at the Supreme Court today, there is a changing of the guard.
    • Justice Stephen Breyer officially steps down at noon, after serving 27 years. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the court’s first African-American woman, will then be sworn in.

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10,000-strong migrant caravan heading to the United States

 

Important Takeaways:

  • The migrants are counting on President Joe Biden to cancel the Title 42 coronavirus protection protocol put in place during the Trump administration.
  • “He promised the Haitian community he will help them,” migrants told Fox News on Friday. “He will recall Title 42. He will help us have real asylum.”
  • The Biden Administration is in the process of appealing a court order stopping the administration from canceling the Title 42 protocol.
  • A combination of official and unofficial numbers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection sources show that more than 600,000 migrants crossed the U.S. border from Mexico since March 1. Ending Title 42 could bring approximately 18,000 illegal border crossers per day to the border

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Most of 54 dead in Mexico truck crash were Guatemalans, Mexico says

By Jacob Garcia

TUXTLA GUTIERREZ, Mexico (Reuters) – Most of the victims of Thursday’s truck crash in southern Mexico that killed at least 54 people and injured dozens more were Guatemalan migrants, authorities said on Friday.

People spilled from the truck carrying an estimated 166 people after it flipped over on a curve outside the city of Tuxtla Gutierrez in the state of Chiapas, causing one of the worst death tolls of migrants in Mexico in the past decade.

The Mexican Attorney General’s office said it would investigate the incident, which state officials in Chiapas said had claimed the lives of 54 people and injured 58 others.

Authorities identified 95 Guatemalans among the people caught up in the accident, as well as three people from the Dominican Republic, a Honduran, a Mexican and an Ecuadorean.

Lists of people being treated in hospital published on social media showed dozens of Guatemalan migrants among the survivors. Local residents said other people fled the scene, apparently to evade arrest after the truck rolled over.

An unidentified Guatemalan man interviewed at the scene said when the trunk driver tried to negotiate the bend, the weight of people inside caused the vehicle flip over.

“The trailer couldn’t handle the weight of people,” he said.

Thousands of migrants fleeing poverty and violence in Central America travel through Mexico each month to reach the U.S. border. They often cram inside large trucks organized by smugglers in extremely dangerous conditions.

National and international leaders expressed consternation at the death toll, and urged migrants not to try their luck in making the journey north to the United States.

“Human smugglers disregard human life for their own profit. Please don’t risk your lives to migrate irregularly,” Ken Salazar, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico said on Twitter.

Many migrants fall prey to criminal gangs en route. In January, 19 people, mostly migrants, were massacred with suspected police involvement in northern Mexico.

Record numbers of people have been arrested on the U.S.-Mexico border this year as migrants seek to capitalize on President Joe Biden’s pledge to pursue more humane immigration policies than his hardline predecessor, Donald Trump.

Mexican authorities in Chiapas have attempted to persuade migrants to not form caravans to walk thousands of miles to the U.S. border, and have begun transporting people from the southern city of Tapachula to other regions of the country.

(Additional reporting by Lizbeth Diaz and Jose Torres; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Alison Williams)

Belarus denies aggravating migrant situation at Polish border

KYIV (Reuters) – Belarus on Tuesday said its security services did not aggravate the migrant situation at the border by throwing firecrackers or taking other actions as Poland claimed the previous day.

The Belarus State Border Committee rejected the allegation by Polish Border Guard Captain Krystyna Jakimik-Jarosz and accused the Polish government of avoiding scrutiny of its own activities.

“Poland deliberately spreads fake information in order to hide from the public the real picture of the events taking place on the border,” the spokesman for the border committee Anton Bychkovsky said in a statement to Reuters.

Poland’s government maintains all of the allegations it has presented against the Belarusian authorities, special services spokesperson Stanislaw Zaryn told Reuters.

Thousands of people mostly from the Middle East have crossed the Polish border from Belarus since the summer, with the European Union accusing Minsk of flying them in and pushing them to cross into the bloc via neighboring Poland.

International organizations have said Poland was breaching humanitarian standards in forcing some migrants back into Belarus, a charge the Warsaw government denies.

On Monday, there were 116 attempts to cross the border. By contrast, on Nov. 17, 501 attempts were reported.

(Reporting by Kacper Pempel; additional reporting by Matthias Williams and Natalia Zinets and Joanna Plucinska in Warsaw; Writing by Alan Charlish; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

French police evict migrants from camp on Channel coast

By Juliette Jabkhiro

GRANDE-SYNTHE, France (Reuters) – Police on Tuesday tore down a makeshift camp near the northern French port of Dunkirk where scores of migrants who say they are fleeing war, poverty and persecution in the Middle East were hunkered down with hopes of reaching Britain.

Armed officers entered the camp, which runs along a disused railway line, before workers in protective suits pulled down tents and plastic shelters.

Charity workers say the 27 migrants who drowned in the Channel last Wednesday had stayed in the same area before they attempted the perilous sea crossing from France to Britain last Wednesday. Their dinghy deflated in the open sea.

The number of migrants crossing the Channel has surged to 25,776 in 2021, up from 8,461 in 2020 and 1,835 in 2019, according to tallies compiled by the BBC using Home Office data.

The spike in numbers has angered Britain, which accuses France of doing too little to stem the flow. Paris says that once migrants reach the shores of the channel, it is too late to prevent them crossing.

French police routinely tear up the camps that spring up between Calais and Dunkirk. Evictions at the Grande-Synthe site had been taking place on a weekly basis for the past few weeks, one charity worker said.

The migrants are typically transported to holding centers scattered across the country where they are encouraged to file for asylum, though many quickly make their way back to the Channel coast.

Hussein Hamid, 25, an Iranian Kurd, said it was the second time he had been evicted. On the first occasion, he was bussed to Lyon 760km to the south.

Hamid tried to leave the camp swiftly by foot, carrying a backpack, but said the police had blocked any way out.

An Iraqi Kurd told Reuters by text message that he was hiding nearby while the police conducted their operation.

“I’ll come back if they don’t find me,” he said, requesting anonymity to avoid police reprisals.

President Emmanuel Macron on Friday told Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “get serious” in the effort to curb migrant flows, as post-Brexit relations between their governments deteriorate.

(Reporting by Judith Jabkhiro; Writing by Richard Lough, Editing by Alex Richardson and Ed Osmond)

New caravan sets off from Mexico as officials struggle with immigration claims

By Jose Luis Gonzalez

TAPACHULA, Mexico (Reuters) – Some 2,000 migrants and asylum seekers departed the southern Mexican city of Tapachula near the Guatemalan border overnight on Sunday in the latest in a series of caravans setting out for the United States.

By Monday morning, the caravan had advanced about 25 kilometers (15 mi) to reach the town of Huehuetan, according to a Reuters witness.

The majority of its members were families from Central America and the Caribbean fleeing violence, poverty and growing hunger crises in their home countries.

For months, migrants and human rights advocates have denounced the “prison-like” conditions in Tapachula. Under Mexican rules, migrants must wait to process their claims – often for months – before being able to relocate to other parts of the country without fear of deportation.

Thousands of migrants waited on Monday in an hours-long line inside a stadium where immigration officials had set up a processing center.

“In Tapachula, there’s no life for migrants. We don’t have work, we don’t have money to pay for housing,” said Atis, a Haitian migrant waiting in line who declined to give his last name.

“We’re waiting here at immigration, but if there’s no other option, then we’ll leave here on foot, in another caravan.”

Last week, the Mexican government transported hundreds of migrants from Tapachula to other states in efforts to head off the formation of more caravans. But tens of thousands of migrants still remain in the city.

(Reporting by Jose Luis Gonzalez; Writing by Laura Gottesdiener; Editing by Daina Solomon and Dan Grebler)

Poland says Belarus ferries migrants back to border after clearing camps

By Yara Abi Nader and Kacper Pempel

BIELSK PODLASKI, Poland/BRUZGI, Belarus (Reuters) -Poland accused Belarus on Friday of trucking hundreds of migrants back to the border and pushing them to attempt to cross illegally, only hours after clearing camps at a frontier that has become the focus of an escalating East-West crisis.

The accusation by Poland suggests the crisis has not been resolved by an apparent change of tack by Minsk, which on Thursday had cleared the main camps by the border and allowed the first repatriation flight to Iraq in months.

European governments accuse Belarus of flying in thousands of people from the Middle East and pushing them to attempt to illegally cross the EU border, where several people have died in the freezing woods. Belarus denies fomenting the crisis.

Polish Border Guard spokesperson Anna Michalska said that by Thursday evening, just hours after clearing the camps, Belarus authorities were already trucking hundreds back and forcing them to try to cross in darkness.

“(The Belarusians) were bringing more migrants to the place where there was a forced attempt to cross,” Michalska said. “At the beginning there were 100 people, but then the Belarusian side brought more people in trucks. Then there were 500 people.”

When the migrants tried to cross the border, Belarusian troops blinded Polish guards with lasers, she told a news conference. Some migrants had thrown logs and four guards sustained minor injuries.

Access to the border on the Polish side is restricted by a state of emergency, making it difficult to verify her account.

‘NIGHTMARE’

In an interview with the BBC, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko repeated denials that he had orchestrated the crisis but, asked if Belarus was helping migrants try and cross into Poland, he said: “I think that’s absolutely possible. We’re Slavs. We have hearts. Our troops know the migrants are going to Germany. Maybe someone helped them. I won’t even look into this.”

The migrants from the camp on the Belarus side were taken on Thursday to a huge, crowded warehouse and journalists were permitted to film them. Children ran about on Friday morning, and men played cards while one dangled a toddler on his lap.

“This is not a life but this is not permanent, this should be just temporary until they decide our destiny: to take us to Europe or bring us back to our countries,” said 23-year-old electrician Mohammed Noor.

“What I wish for myself, I wish it for others too – to go to Europe and live a stable life.”

Meanwhile in a hospital in Bielsk Podlaski, on the Polish side, two migrants who had been caught after crossing were given treatment before being taken away by Polish border guards.

Before he was taken away, Mansour Nassar, 42, a father-of-six from Aleppo, in Syria, who had travelled to Belarus from Lebanon, described his ordeal during five days in the forest.

“The Belarusian army told us: ‘If you come back, we will kill you’,” he said, in tears in his hospital bed. “We drank from ponds… Our people are always oppressed.”

Kassam Shahadah, a Syrian refugee doctor living in Poland who helps out in another hospital, said patients were terrified of being forcibly returned to Belarus.

“What they have seen, what they have lived through on that side is a nightmare for them,” he said.

EXTREME SUFFERING

Human rights groups say Poland has exacerbated the suffering by sending back those who try to cross. Poland says this is necessary to stop more people from coming.

“I have personally listened to the appalling accounts of extreme suffering from desperate people – among whom many families, children and elderly – who spent weeks or even months in squalid and extreme conditions in the cold and wet woods due to these pushbacks,” Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović said after a four-day mission to Poland.

“I have witnessed clear signs of their painful ordeal: wounds, frostbite, exposure to extreme cold, exhaustion and stress,” she said. “I have no doubt that returning any of these people to the border will lead to more extreme human suffering and more deaths.”

The Polish border guards have recorded seven deaths at the border. Rights groups say more than 10 people have died.

‘CYNICAL AND INHUMANE’

Europeans have shunned Lukashenko since a disputed election last year, but reached out cautiously this week, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking to Lukashenko twice by phone.

However, on Thursday the European Commission and Germany rejected a proposal that Minsk said Lukashenko had made to Merkel, under which EU countries would take in 2,000 migrants, while 5,000 others would be sent back home..

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Friday that the situation on the borders remained deeply concerning.

“Lukashenko’s regime’s use of vulnerable people as a means to put pressure on other countries is cynical and inhumane,” he said. “NATO stands in full solidarity with all affected allies.”

(Reporting by Joanna Plucinska, Pawel Florkiewicz, Anna Wlodarczak-Semczuk, Leon Malherbe, Yara Abi Nader, Kacper Pempel, Stephan Schepers, Andrius Sytas; Writing by Joanna Plucinska and Ingrid Melander; Editing by Peter Graff and Alex Richardson)

Exclusive-Mexico considers tighter entry rules for Venezuelans after U.S. requests -sources

By Alexandra Ulmer, Dave Graham and Matt Spetalnick

SAN FRANCISCO/MEXICO CITY (Reuters) -Mexico is considering setting tougher entry requirements for Venezuelans, partly in response to U.S. requests, after a sharp rise in border arrests of Venezuelans fleeing their homeland, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Currently, Venezuelans do not need a visa to enter Mexico as tourists. But as apprehensions of Venezuelan migrants on the U.S.-Mexico border soar, Mexico is looking at making their entry subject to certain criteria, a Mexican official familiar with the government’s internal discussions said.

New entry rules could be applied soon, the official said.

A second Mexican government source said Mexico was reviewing its options, and holding discussions with Venezuela to explore alternatives to imposing visa requirements.

A third person familiar with Mexican-U.S. talks said Washington is urging Mexico to impose visa restrictions on Venezuelans, noting that U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been complaining about the increase in Venezuelans.

Options under review include making Venezuelans show they are economically solvent and in employment, and have a return plane ticket when they enter in order to ensure they are not using Mexico to enter the United States, the first source said.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said Washington was working with Mexico to address root causes of irregular migration in a “collaborative, regional approach” when asked by Reuters whether the Biden administration was pressing Mexico to tighten entry requirements for Venezuelans.

“The United States appreciates Mexico’s efforts that contribute to safe, orderly, and humane processes for migrants at and within its borders,” the spokesperson said.

The White House, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Neither Mexico’s foreign ministry nor Venezuela’s Information Ministry replied to a request for comment.

The discussions come as encounters of Venezuelans at the U.S.-Mexico border have leapt to 47,762 in the year through September from just 1,262 during the previous 12-month period, according to U.S. government data.

Total apprehensions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border have hit record levels this year. That has put pressure on U.S. President Joe Biden ahead of congressional elections next November, with many voters in Texas border towns upset https://www.reuters.com/world/us/migrants-school-buses-texas-town-feels-caught-middle-2021-09-21 and Republicans accusing his administration of pursuing an “open border” policy.

One of the Mexican sources said Washington had lobbied Mexico to slow arrivals from Venezuela, but that Mexico also wanted to make sure people were not entering on false pretenses.

A fourth source, in U.S. government, said efforts to lobby Mexico to tighten entry requirements from OPEC member Venezuela had increased since Venezuelan arrivals jumped this summer, and that requests for cooperation had been made informally by diplomats and the DHS. The source said Washington was not leaning hard on Mexico.

Tighter entry rules could seriously affect migration plans of many Venezuelans, who pay smuggling networks to help them escape economic devastation under President Nicolas Maduro, who has presided over a severe financial meltdown amid heavy U.S. sanctions. Many of the Venezuelans depart with little money.

Venezuelans arriving from elsewhere in Latin America like Colombia or Chile, where they often work for a few years to save in hard currency before heading north, would likely be less exposed to requirements centering on their solvency.

Rights activists on Friday decried the potential move to restrict Venezuelan arrivals.

“Venezuelan migrants and refugees are fleeing a complex humanitarian emergency, lack of justice, an absence of freedom, and violence,” said David Smolansky, an exiled Venezuelan opposition leader who coordinates the Organization of American States’ response to Venezuela’s migration crisis. “In the face of such a situation, it is fundamental that they receive protection.”

Reuters reported in October that the Biden administration wanted Mexico to impose visa requirements on Brazilians to complicate their path to the U.S. border. And in September, Mexico suspended visa exemptions for Ecuadorians for six months following a steep increase in that country’s nationals trying to cross the U.S. border.

The U.S. government source said Biden’s aides could raise the Venezuelan migrant issue with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s delegation when he visits Washington next week for a U.S.-Mexico-Canada summit.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer in San Francisco, Dave Graham in Mexico City and Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Additional reporting by Kristina Cooke in San Francisco, Mica Rosenberg in New York, Vivian Sequera in Caracas and Ana Isabel Martinez in Mexico City; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)

EU accuses Belarus of ‘gangster’ methods as migrants shiver at Polish border

By Alan Charlish and Felix Hoske

NAREWKA, Poland (Reuters) – Hundreds of migrants huddled around forest campfires in freezing temperatures on Tuesday near the Belarus-Poland border where razor wire fences and Polish border guards blocked their entry into the European Union.

The EU vowed more sanctions against Belarus, accusing President Alexander Lukashenko of using “gangster-style” tactics in the months-long border stand-off in which at least seven migrants have died.

Poland and other EU member states accuse Belarus of encouraging the migrants – from the Middle East, Afghanistan and Africa – to illegally cross the frontier into the EU in revenge for sanctions slapped on Minsk over human rights abuses.

“The Belarusian regime is attacking the Polish border, the EU, in an unparalleled manner,” Polish President Andrzej Duda told a news conference in Warsaw.

“We currently have a camp of migrants who are blocked from the Belarusian side. There are about 1,000 people there, mostly young men. These are aggressive actions that we must repel, fulfilling our obligations as a member of the European Union.”

Reuters reporters saw Polish border guards detain a group of Iraqi Kurdish migrants in a forest on the Polish side of the border on Tuesday afternoon. Medics put Red Cross blankets around some of the migrants. One elderly woman could not walk.

NGO Grupa Granica (Border Group) said there were 16 migrants in the group, nine of them children. It said the group had been pushed back and forth between Polish and Belarusian border guards four times since they reached the border on Oct. 24.

“I ask for asylum in Poland,” read a message scrawled in English on a piece of paper held up by a middle-aged man.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiekci, who earlier visited Polish troops stationed at the border, said the migrants were being used by Belarus as part of “a new type of war in which people are used as human shields”.

Lukashenko’s government, which is backed by Russia, denies engineering the migrant crisis and blames Europe and the United States for the plight of the people stranded at the border.

It summoned Poland’s defense attaché on Tuesday to protest what it said were unfounded allegations about the involvement of Belarusian military personnel in the crisis.

‘BLACKMAIL’

Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed the situation by phone and expressed concern over the build-up of Polish troops at the border, the Belarusian state news agency Belta reported on Tuesday.

“To conduct a war with these unfortunate people on the border of Poland with Belarus and move forward columns of tanks – it’s clear this is either a training exercise or it’s blackmail,” Lukashenko said in televised comments.

“We will calmly stand up to this.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov suggested the EU provide Belarus with financial assistance to stop the migrant flows, referencing an earlier such deal with Turkey.

The European Commission said around 2,000 migrants had now reached the border. Some could be seen milling around tents and campfires set up just beyond Poland’s barbed-wire barrier.

“This is part of the inhuman and really gangster-style approach of the Lukashenko regime that he is lying to people, he is misusing people…and bringing them to Belarus under the false promise of having easy entry into the EU,” a Commission spokesperson said.

EU governments partially suspended a visa facilitation deal for Belarusian officials.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR called for an end to the use of vulnerable people as political pawns.

‘DANGEROUS EVENTS’

A spokesman for Poland’s security services, Stanislaw Zaryn, said Belarusian security personnel were “firing empty shots into the air, simulating dangerous events”, while also providing tools to the migrants to help them destroy the border fence.

On Monday some migrants used spades and other implements to try to break down the fence.

Poland’s Border Guard recorded 309 illegal attempts to breach the frontier on Monday and detained 17 people, mainly Iraqis.

Lithuania also reported a surge in attempted migrant crossings and followed in Poland’s footsteps by declaring a state of emergency along its border with Belarus on Tuesday.

The move allows border guards to use “mental coercion” and “proportional physical violence” to stop the migrants.

The crisis erupted after Western powers slapped sanctions on Belarus over its violent crackdown on mass street protests that were sparked by Lukashenko’s disputed claim of victory in a presidential election in 2020.

Poland denies accusations by humanitarian groups that it is violating the international right to asylum by hustling migrants back into Belarus instead of accepting their applications for protection. Warsaw says its actions are legal.

“We can never be certain what will happen to people we offer help to in this forest because Polish authorities are breaking the law and the Geneva Convention,” Grupa Granica’s Jakub Sypianski said as Polish police detained migrants nearby.

A poll by IBRiS for Polish daily Rzeczpospolita this week showed 55% of Poles believe migrants who have illegally crossed the border should be sent back.

(Additional reporting by Joanna Plucinska and Pawel Florkiewicz in Warsaw, Matthias Williams in Kyiv, Sabine Siebold in Berlin, Robin Emmott in Brussels, Andrius Sytas in Kapciamiestis, Lithuania, Polina Devitt and Mark Trevelyan in Moscow; writing by Matthias Wiliams; editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich)

Poland blames Belarus as migrants try to force their way across border

By Matthias Williams and Joanna Plucinska

KYIV (Reuters) -Poland accused Belarus of trying to spark a major confrontation on Monday as video clips showed hundreds of migrants walking towards the Polish border and some trying to breach the fence using spades and other implements.

Warsaw said it had deployed additional soldiers, border guards and police, while neighboring Lithuania said it might introduce a state of emergency on its border with Belarus.

The European Union, to which Poland and Lithuania both belong, accuses Minsk of encouraging migrants from the Middle East and Africa to cross into the EU via Belarus, as a form of hybrid warfare in revenge for Western sanctions on President Alexander Lukashenko’s government over human rights abuses.

Poland said it had withstood the first attempts on Monday by the migrants to force their way across the border.

A video distributed by Polish authorities showed one man cutting part of a barbed wire fence, another attacking the fence with a spade, while a Polish soldier sprayed an unidentified substance from a can.

In an earlier video, shared by the Belarusian blogging service NEXTA, migrants carrying rucksacks and wearing winter clothing were seen walking on the side of a highway. Other videos showed large groups of migrants sitting by the road and being escorted by armed men dressed in khaki.

“Belarus wants to cause a major incident, preferably with shots fired and casualties. According to media reports, they are preparing a major provocation near Kuznica Bialostocka, that there will be an attempt at a mass border crossing,” Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk told Polish public radio.

Lithuania said it also was moving additional troops to the border to prepare for a possible surge in migrant crossings. Latvia said the situation was “alarming.”

‘INHUMAN ATTITUDE’

Lukashenko’s government has repeatedly denied manufacturing a migrant crisis, blaming the West for the crossings and treatment of migrants.

The Belarusian state border committee confirmed on Monday that many refugees were moving towards the Polish border, but said Warsaw was taking an “inhumane attitude.”

Poland has stationed more than 12,000 troops at the border, its defense minister said, while sharing aerial footage of migrants clustered on the Belarusian side.

“They throw tree trunks on the fence so as to reduce the height of this fence to breach it,” said Katarzyna Zdanowicz, spokeswoman for Polish border guards in the area.

Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya urged a strong response from the EU and United Nations.

“Belarus’ regime escalates the border crisis – migrants are pushed to EU border by armed men,” she tweeted. “The migrant smuggling, violence & ill-treatment must stop.”

The EU, the United States and Britain imposed sanctions on Belarus after Lukashenko unleashed a violent crackdown on mass protests following a disputed election last year.

“Lukashenko’s regime is putting the lives and health of migrants at risk, using them to escalate the border crisis and provoke Poland,” said Bix Aliu, the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires in Warsaw. “Hostile actions by Belarus are exacerbating the situation on the border with the EU and NATO dangerously and must end immediately.”

Lukashenko has defied opposition calls to resign, buttressed by money and diplomatic support from traditional ally Russia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Monday defended Minsk’s handling of the migrant issue, saying Belarus was taking all necessary measures to act legally.

Charities say the migrants face freezing weather conditions and a lack of food and medical attention.

Poland said seven migrants had been found dead on its side of the border, with reports of more deaths in Belarus.

Humanitarian groups accuse Poland’s ruling nationalists of violating the international right to asylum by pushing migrants back into Belarus instead of accepting their applications for protection. Poland says its actions are legal.

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Facebook: “The Polish border is not just a line on a map. The border is sacred – Polish blood has been spilled for it!”.

(Reporting by Matthias Williams in Kyiv, Joanna Plucinska and Pawel Florkiewicz in Warsaw; Andrius Sytas in Vilnius; additional reporting by Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv, Dmitry Antonov in Moscow and Christian Kraemer in Berlin; writing by Matthias Williams, editing by Ed Osmond and Gareth Jones)