Why Poland is pulling troops from Belarus border

A dozen Polish soldiers deployed to check the trafficking of migrants to Sweden and other countries along the border with Belarus are no longer needed after a drop in human trafficking networks appears to have taken hold, including through Ukraine, according to a newspaper report on Tuesday.

Before the deployment, Polish officials had estimated that as many as 35,000 migrants may have entered Poland illegally via Belarus this year.

Now, officials seem to think that the number of migrants has dropped to about 7,000 from a peak of 12,000 in July.

Poland recently agreed to a deal with Germany that it would take in a certain number of asylum seekers.

Another newspaper quoted Polish officials as saying they will ask the EU for permission to permanently deploy an additional 200 soldiers and one armored vehicle for this year in Belarus.

The officials estimated that 80 percent of the migrants entering Poland enter through Belarus.

When Poland deployed the soldiers in late June, the government said it had no choice but to go along with the plan to send more assistance to Belarus because of the rise in migrant numbers.

However, the Army’s deployment last summer has also stirred considerable controversy. The Polish defense ministry has argued that it was necessary to boost the number of troops to help prevent a refugee crisis along the border with Ukraine, where a separatist conflict has intensified over the past two years.

The Polish newspaper am Sonntag cited defense officials as saying the new brigade, which is based in Szczecin, just across the border in Belarus, is capable of responding to incidents as diverse as refugees and migrants, major combat missions in the Middle East and anti-terrorism operations.

The paper reported that the soldiers would be stationed in nine locations along the Ukrainian-Belarusian border.

The newspaper said the soldiers are guarded by K-9 units, which patrol roads and other areas of danger. The paper said the soldier’s job is to cross the border, flagging up any suspicious behavior to local police.

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The news service of a British political party, the Conservatives, which is part of the ruling coalition with Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, also reported that Poland and Belarus had agreed earlier this year to boost joint maritime patrols in the Kerch Strait, where the two countries share a narrow waterway.

This story was reported by The Associated Press.

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