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How A Dictator Engineered A Migration Crisis At The Belarus-Poland Border

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How A Dictator Engineered A Migration Crisis At The Belarus-Poland Border

GRODNO REGION, BELARUS - NOVEMBER 15, 2021: Migrants at the Bruzgi - Kuznica checkpoint on the Belarusian-Polish border. The migrant crisis on the border of Belarus with Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia escalated on November 8. Several thousand migrants approached the Belarusian-Polish border and set up a tent camp there; some of them tried to cross the border by breaking a barbed wire fence. Oksana Manchuk/BelTA/TASS (Photo by Oksana Manchuk\TASS via Getty Images)

Oksana Manchuk/Oksana Manchuk/ÁåëÒÀ/TASS

Migrants from faraway countries are stuck in Belarus, just across its border with Poland. They've traveled there to seek asylum in the EU. But Poland has refused to accept them.

How did they get there? They were invited — and in some cases, their travel facilitated — by the regime of Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. EU leaders say Lukashenko and his backers in Russia are 'weaponizing' migration in retaliation for sanctions placed on Belarus last year. Those sanctions came after the EU accused Lukashenko of rigging his most recent election.

Now, many hundreds of migrants are stuck on the Belarus side of the border. There have been at least nine recorded deaths, but observers think there have been many more. Migrants were reportedly moved from makeshift camps outdoors to a government-run shelter on Thursday, though it's unclear what Belarus plans to do with them next.

NPR international correspondent Rob Schmitz has seen the crisis up close. This episode is a collection of his reporting. Find more of it here, and see photos from the border on NPR’s Picture Show.

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