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EU border guard shoots Syrian refugee

A Polish soldier allegedly fired his gun by accident while on patrol and could face up to three years in prison

A 22-year-old Syrian man was hospitalized on Saturday after a Polish soldier patrolling near the Belarusian border “tripped” and shot him in the back, state news outlet the Polish Press Agency reported on Sunday.  

Military police officers are said to be investigating the “unfortunate accident,” which the deputy for military affairs from the Bialystok-Polnoc District’s prosecutor’s office confirmed was the result of a “soldier tripping.” 

The soldier, who has not been named, could face up to three years in prison for careless handling of weapons and unintentionally causing injury to another person, penalties that could increase to eight years if his victim is found to be gravely injured or dies of his wounds.

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The migrant was taken to a hospital in Hajnowka and was reportedly in stable condition awaiting surgery as of Monday. However, the bullet’s position near his spine put him at risk of paralysis, according to aid workers.

The Syrian told migrant aid NGO Grupa Granica that he had heard a “single, incomprehensible scream” and a gunshot before he was knocked to the ground after crossing several kilometers into Poland from Belarus with a group of his countrymen.

He claimed to hear three more shots before losing consciousness and said it was daylight when he was hit. “The soldiers must have seen them clearly,” Grupa Granica suggested in a Facebook post, adding that the NGO was providing legal and psychological assistance to the man while he was hospitalized. He reportedly wants to seek international protection in Poland.

When soldiers found him and called for an ambulance, they also discovered the body of a second Syrian, believed to be an individual that authorities and activists were previously looking for. While police and prosecutors have yet to confirm his identity or how he died, his demise is believed to be unrelated to the “accidental” shooting.

Poland has accused neighboring Belarus of weaponizing migration, claiming officials have guided migrants to weak spots in the border and even cut holes in border fences in order to dump undesirables on the EU country. In turn, Polish border guards have been accused of violently shoving migrants back through the border into Belarus, which is illegal under international law. 

Including the newly-discovered body, 55 people have died crossing the EU’s border with Belarus, Euronews reported. The Polish border guard has counted 24,000 attempts at illegally crossing from Belarus this year alone. 

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko insisted last month during a visit to military facilities bordering Poland and Ukraine that his country was a “good neighbor” to Poland, telling reporters that Minsk had “never set out to fight with the Poles or even to aggravate relations with them.”


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