Polish solider shoots Syrian refugee after ‘tripping’ – reports

A Syrian man has been shot near the border with Belarus after a Polish soldier allegedly “tripped”. 

Announcing that military police were investigating, Radoslaw Wiszenko, deputy for military affairs of the Bialystok-Polnoc District prosecutor told the Polish Press Agency (PAP) on Sunday the “unfortunate accident” resulted from a “solider tripping”. 

The reported asylum-seeker was taken to a hospital in Hajnówka, a town in northeast Poland near the Belarusian border.

Separately, the body of another man – again reported to be from Syria – was discovered nearby. There is no sign the two incidents are connected. 

On Monday, the NGO Grupa Granica (Border Group) – which aids refugees and migrants in Poland – said it was supporting the 22-year-old Syrian man in hospital, providing him with legal and psychological assistance. 

He is reportedly in a stable condition, awaiting surgery, but at risk of paralysis. 

Grupa Granica say the man was shot in the back after crossing a few kilometres into Poland with a group of other Syrians. 

“He heard one single, incomprehensible scream coming from behind him, followed immediately by a shot, knocking him to the ground,” they wrote on Facebook. 

The man reportedly heard three more gunshots after collapsing. 

“At the time of the incident it was light, well before sunset, so the soldiers must have seen them clearly,” wrote Grupa Granica.

It is not known what happened to the other members of the group he was with. 

Soldiers then arrived and called an ambulance for the man, who now wants to apply for international protection in Poland.  

Piotr Czaban, a Polish humanitarian activist, first reported on Saturday that a Syrian man had been shot, with “the bullet getting stuck in his spine”. 

The unnamed soldier could face up to three years in prison, possibly increasing to eight if the man is severely injured or dies, for careless handling of weapons and unintentionally causing injury to another person, PAP – a state-run Polish news agency – report. 

Europe’s forgotten migration crisis

Poland – alongside neighbouring Lithuania – is grappling with a migrant crisis, they say is being facilitated by Belarus as a form of “hybrid warfare”.

Belarussian officials have been accused of cutting holes in border fences and pushing large groups of migrants through, as well as guiding them to weak spots, amid soaring geopolitical tensions.

Tens of thousands of migrants have tried to cross into the Eastern European state since 2021, with scores of people injured or killed on the border. 

Polish border guards have been repeatedly accused of violently pushing migrants back into Belarus – a practice that is illegal under international law. 

Even if Belarus is instrumentalising migration, observers have claimed states should respect human rights and uphold their international obligations. 

Activists say the body of the man found on the Belarus border is the 55th confirmed fatality during what has been called Europe’s forgotten migration crisis. 

Police and prosecutors told PAP that they are currently trying to confirm his identity and the circumstances of the man’s death. 

But he is thought to be a Syrian that activists and the authorities had previously been searching for.

According to estimates by the Polish Poland border guard, there have already been 24,000 attempted illegal crossings this year.

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