A Polish soldier has shot a Syrian asylum seeker near the border with Belarus, in what has been called an “unfortunate accident” after the soldier “tripped”.
In a Facebook post, the NGO, Grupa Granica, (Border Group), which helps refugees and migrants in Poland, stated that the unidentified 22-year-old Syrian man had been crossing the Belarusian-Polish border last Friday with a group of other Syrians and were a few kilometres into Poland when he was suddenly shot in the back.
“He heard one single, incomprehensible scream coming from behind him, followed immediately by a shot, knocking him to the ground”, the group said. After he collapsed, he reportedly heard three more gunshots, with the group stressing that “At the time of the incident it was light, well before sunset, so the soldiers must have seen them clearly”.
Soldiers then came and called an ambulance for the Syrian man, who was taken to a hospital in the north-eastern Polish town of Hajnówka. His condition was reportedly stable while awaiting necessary surgery, but could be at risk of paralysis due to the location of the fired bullet in his back.
According to the Polish Press Agency (PAP) on Sunday, Radoslaw Wiszenko, the deputy for military affairs of Bialystok-Polnoc’s District prosecutor, the “unfortunate accident” was unintentional and a direct result of the “solider tripping”. He announced, though, that the military police were investigating the incident.
The Syrian asylum seeker now reportedly wants to apply for international protection in Poland, while the soldier in question could face up to three years in prison for careless handling of weapons and unintentionally causing injury to another person. That could apparently increase to eight years if the Syrian man is severely injured or dies.
Grupa Granica confirmed that it is “in constant contact with him [the Syrian man], providing him with legal assistance, access to interpreters and psychological support” throughout the ordeal.
In late 2021, thousands of refugees and migrants from the Middle East – especially Syria and Iraq – amassed at Belarus’s borders with Poland and Lithuania, attempting to cross over into those countries in an apparent effort to enter the European Union (EU) and gain asylum.
The bloc accused Minsk of weaponising migration by allowing them to head to the borders or even actively transporting them there, with the alleged aim of putting pressure on or destabilising neighbouring countries within the union.
Many of the refugees and migrants suffered at those borders, risking their lives and sometimes dying from the extreme cold with insufficient supplies, while the European nations’ border forces hunted them down or illegally pushed them back across the borders.
Over the ensuing months, there were some evacuation flights from Iraq to repatriate the stranded migrants, enabling much of the crisis to abate. There remain some asylum seekers, however, especially from Syria, who reportedly continue to attempt to make the same crossings, despite the risks.
Source : MEMO