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Medical relief teams leave Poland without reaching migrants

January 6, 2022 GMT
A man prepares to sleep as migrants settle at the "Bruzgi" checkpoint logistics center at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. Since Nov. 8, a large group of migrants, mostly Iraqi Kurds, has been stranded at a border crossing with Poland. Most of them are fleeing conflict or hopelessness at home, and aim to reach Western European countries. But as temperatures fall below freezing, life at the border becomes more challenging. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
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A man prepares to sleep as migrants settle at the "Bruzgi" checkpoint logistics center at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. Since Nov. 8, a large group of migrants, mostly Iraqi Kurds, has been stranded at a border crossing with Poland. Most of them are fleeing conflict or hopelessness at home, and aim to reach Western European countries. But as temperatures fall below freezing, life at the border becomes more challenging. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)
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A man prepares to sleep as migrants settle at the "Bruzgi" checkpoint logistics center at the Belarus-Poland border near Grodno, Belarus, Thursday, Dec. 23, 2021. Since Nov. 8, a large group of migrants, mostly Iraqi Kurds, has been stranded at a border crossing with Poland. Most of them are fleeing conflict or hopelessness at home, and aim to reach Western European countries. But as temperatures fall below freezing, life at the border becomes more challenging. (AP Photo/Pavel Golovkin)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — International humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders said Thursday that its teams assigned to Poland’s border with Belarus have left the country after repeatedly being denied access to the migrants and refugees they went to help.

Doctors Without Borders, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres, said it spent three months seeking permission for its emergency response workers to enter the forested border zone where hundreds of asylum-seekers now are stranded in freezing winter weather.

“Since October, MSF has repeatedly requested access to the restricted area and the border guard posts in Poland, but without success,” Frauke Ossig, the group’s emergency coordinator for Poland and Lithuania, said in a statement.

The European Union has accused the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of encouraging people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East to use Belarus as a gateway to illegally enter neighboring EU member nations.

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Poland’s government built razor wire barriers along the border with Belarus and has banned public access to the area. Reporters and humanitarian workers need special permission to enter. Some refugees and migrants have died while trying to enter Poland.

“We know that there are still people crossing the border and hiding in the forest, in need of support, but while we are committed to assisting people on the move wherever they may be, we have not been able to reach them in Poland,” Ossig said.