Everything happens in Rudniki and the surroundings of this village. Near the Lithuanian-Belarus border there is a prison camp that holds 800 men, mostly from the Middle East. Some were arrested months ago. It happened when Lithuania noticed the impudence of the Belarusian regime. This is because, regardless of his neighbor, he “pushed” the crowds of migrants into the hands of the border guards (who had previously lured them to Belarus with cheap flights from Baghdad to Minsk). Now Belarus is doing the same with Poland. This is part of the “hybrid war” that President Alexander Lukashenko is waging with the Baltic states and the European Union.
– They are hungry and cold. You can see how the weather is here. They are cool because they are lightly dressed. The Red Cross brings them something, but they still have a hard time – this is how Diana Santakin, a resident of Rudniki, tells us about the prisoners in the camp in broken Polish.
She joined an unofficial civilian militia that locals call “self-defense”. The woman is afraid. She says she sometimes hears “Freedom!” at the resort.
– They’re getting nervous. We hear it in Rudniki. Then people ask: What is going on there? We are terrible. How are they all going to start escaping? What will be here in Rudniki? – says Diana Santakin.
Militia patrols run day and night. Today, five groups patrol the area. Two self-defence personnel are heading to the place where the police cars are – in front of the refugee camp gate. They will take phone numbers from the police, so that in the event of a meeting with a fugitive, they will not call 112, but directly to someone with a live firearm. It is clear that the meetings with the fugitives caused fear in the Rudniczans.
– Well, she was there several times. Someone ran away, was in the woods for a long time, and could not find his way, because there is no Internet here. Finally the lady who lives with her husband came to the house. He started asking for help from the window. I called the police … – says Diana Santakin, a member of the patrol.
When asked what the villagers were really afraid of, a somewhat unexpected answer was given:
– There are 800 of them here, they are all men. The sects are divided. There is an “intimate relationship” between them. This is terrible for me. When they begin to flee, it is not known what will be here in our village – our interlocutor says to the camera.
– Community guards have equipped residents with tear gas and whistles and the elderly with one-touch phones that can be used to make emergency calls. Today’s shift leader, Julia Janonet, adds, We caught ourselves on fire and constantly called the Lithuanian and Polish police.
Migrants on the verge of mental exhaustion
Conditions in the center are really bad. When we approached the barbed wire fence we saw the tents. These are apartments for immigrants. Meanwhile, in September, the temperature here at night dropped to almost 0 ° C, and ropes stretched in front of the huts with temporary roofs. Rows of clothes were wet with a heavy mist. Underwear that is wet on the body is not good for the health of people who have a cold. Hence the presence of an ambulance in which we noticed a patient wearing a mask. Anyway, ambulances go here all the time.
The guards ask us not to get too close to the fence, because seeing journalists increases our indoor rebellion instincts. They began shouting, insulting the authorities, threatening to flee. There may be a rebellion, like a dozen days or so. About 50 Iraqis fled the camp at the time.
We met Mustafa, 24, in front of the gate. He is waiting for a suitable opportunity to see his brother imprisoned in the camp in July. Mustafa came to Lithuania from Germany a few days ago, where he works as a professional driver. He showed us his German passport. The flight from Germany took 20 hours. He knows his brother has a cold.
“This is because there are unheated rooms here,” Mustafa tells us.
So far, he has only been allowed a one-time two-minute visit with Ali, 31, who is much older.
– It’s inhuman. Even criminals get more time. I haven’t seen him in 7 years since I myself fled Iraq – Mustafa says and explains that he left his homeland because he was threatened with death for criticizing an Islamist party.
Polish police help in self-defense
Escape is common. People from Rudniki told us that even groups of dozens were running away. Some wander for several days in the surrounding forests, while others manage to reach the Polish border. like last time. The problem is that such wanderings can end in tragedy. On Sunday, September 19, the media reported horrific information that three Iraqis had been found in my pocket in the Al-Sweiki area. No one escaped the killer jungle hack and died. More bodies were found in Obry and Malewich. Also men. The deceased woman was found at the border on the Belarusian side.
So the Polish border guards have something to do. But our services are trying to prevent similar tragedies not only in the country. As Fact proved, the officers with the eagle are also stationed on the Lithuanian side. Local self-defense detachments could count on the support of Polish policemen. We found a distinctive silver and blue police car in Rudniki itself. The policeman we spoke to revealed that he was referred here under an intergovernmental agreement.
– We’ve been here since September 1. We are housed in Vilnius, but we work in places that are considered endangered. Just like here. – Explains Policeman Przemyslaw Świeczkiewicz, in Polish uniform. – We are here under an agreement between the Polish and Lithuanian governments. We want to help – he adds.
He admitted that the police work closely with the guards. Residents are concerned for their safety because people who may move away from the camp may also come home and therefore there is a risk of encounters and dangerous reactions. From both sides – the policeman tells us.
The prime minister was not right
No one specifically prevented us from recording and filming the Lithuanian refugee camp or speaking to the people of Rudniki. We had free access to local authorities and service representatives. But in Poland, we were prevented from covering a similar crisis at the border. Journalists are not allowed to enter, for example, the village of Usnarz Górny in Podlasie with a camera. There were the so-called mixed attacks by Belarus. The services of Alexander Lukashenka’s regime attracted large groups of people from Syria or Iraq to the border and made it easier for newcomers to enter our territory illegally. One of Onet’s correspondent, who wanted to do his work at the border, heard the accusations. He was accused of breaching the state of emergency. The regulations which – as claimed by Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki – were enacted in a similar version in Lithuania. Our report proves that what the Prime Minister said is not entirely true. The so-called emergency. It’s a big difference. The Lithuanians simply reinforced the patrols, but did not prevent the media from showing what was happening at the border.
Journalists are free to move. There are no such recommendations not to give them information. We share with them all the knowledge we have – as stated in an interview with Fakt Gendadij Baranowicz, the star of the Biała Waka district, to which Rudniki belongs. – Our authorities thought of such a solution as in Poland, but it was not offered. There are no restrictions on movement or access to information.
Agnieszka Kaszuba, Jan Malec, Michał Pietrzak
This article was first published on Fakt on September 22, 2021.
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