The refugees and migrants who were camped in the cold on the Poland-Belarus border have been moved to a nearby warehouse in Belarusian territory.
Belarus authorities have cleared the main camps where migrants had huddled at the border with Poland, in what appeared to be a major development in a crisis that has spiralled in recent weeks.
Belarus state news agency Belta on Thursday said the migrants sheltering in the forest had been brought to a warehouse in Belarus away from the frontier. A spokesperson for Polish border guards confirmed the camps had been cleared.
“These camps are now empty, the migrants have been taken most likely to the transport-logistics centre which is not far from the Bruzgi border crossing,” the Polish spokesperson said.
“There were no other such camps … but there were groups appearing in other places trying to cross the border. We’ll see what happens in the next hours.
Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by telephone twice in three days the Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, normally shunned by European leaders.
Belarus said earlier on Thursday Lukashenko had proposed a plan to Merkel to resolve the crisis, under which the EU would take in 2,000 people while Minsk would send another 5,000 back home.
There was no immediate response from the EU to the announcement of that plan. However, shortly before it was announced, the European Commission said there could be no negotiation with Belarus over the plight of the migrants.
European countries accuse Belarus of having deliberately created the crisis by flying in migrants from the Middle East and pushing them to attempt to cross the borders illegally into Poland and Lithuania. Minsk denies deliberately fomenting it.
In recent weeks, hundreds of migrants per night have tried to cross the frontier and have clashed with Polish troops at the border. Around ten are believed to have died in the freezing woods.
The move to clear the camps comes during a week of intensified diplomacy.
Hundreds of Iraqis who have camped for weeks at Belarus’ borders with the EU checked in for a flight back to Iraq earlier on Thursday, the Iraqi foreign ministry said.
At least 15 people, mostly from northern Khartoum, were killed on Wednesday alone, according to medics, raising the death toll of protesters to 39 in recent weeks.
Wednesday’s demonstrations were organised despite a near-total shutdown of internet services and disruption of telephone lines across Sudan.
By Thursday morning, phone lines had been restored but internet services remained largely cut.
Bridges connecting the capital with its neighbouring cities reopened and traffic again flowed through many streets in Khartoum.
“We condemn violence towards peaceful protestors and call for the respect and protection of human rights in Sudan,” said the US State Department’s Bureau of African Affairs on Twitter.
Top general Abdel Fattah al Burhan – Sudan’s de facto leader since the April 2019 ouster of president Omar al-Bashir – detained the civilian leadership and declared a state of emergency on October 25.
The move upended Sudan’s fragile transition to full civilian rule, drawing wide international condemnation and a flurry of punitive measures and aid cuts.
Burhan insists the military’s move “was not a coup” but a step to “rectify the course of the transition” to civilian rule.