By Euan McKirdy and Hichem Skali, CNN
Thousands of Afghan migrants who have been camped out in western Ukraine could soon be forced to move to distant land to work or become vulnerable to exploitation as part of a deal being brokered by Belarus, regional law enforcement officials said.
“We know that they are being sold,” said Andrzej Krok, deputy head of Poland’s State Border Guard Service in Kolubara, close to the border between western Ukraine and Belarus.
Krok’s comments on Friday were backed up by Goran Chanck, the head of Belarusian border service at the same area.
“On the one hand we like Afghans, because we see our Afghan employees — restaurant waiters and maids — as friends,” he said. “But, on the other hand, if we let such groups stay in southern Belarus for too long, we would face a serious problem … It would be very dangerous.”
Rob Dobrovich, the director of the European Union’s Asylum Support Office (EASO), said the emergency relocation program for asylum seekers from Italy and Greece had reached the end of its quota and already some facilities were suffering from overcrowding.
In addition, more than 700 Afghans were now living in a camp in Poland and EU countries have refused offers from their host governments for it to expand or relocate a further 74 people. The people in the camp are believed to have been granted asylum.
Poland’s Deputy Interior Minister Bartosz Skoko said the country was keeping a list of “bad elements” with the goal of sending them back to Afghanistan.
It was not immediately clear what roles, if any, the Belarusian border officials have in brokering the deal with the Afghans and what pressure may be exerted on them if they fail to comply.
Hungary is also reported to be negotiating with Belarusian border police, with separate negotiations in Poland and Slovakia said to be under way.
That investigation would also investigate the trade in human organs on a large scale, the Polish Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The remoteness of the regions where the migrants are sheltering suggests a larger scale effort may be required for a safe exit.