[EDITOR’S NOTE: Some of the descriptions might be graphic to readers. Mentions of torture, death, misscarriage and more.]

Since Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, almost 6 million refugees have fled the country. After outpours of grassroots solidarity with displaced Ukrainians, European governments were forced to stop dragging their heels and allow these people into their country. This stands in stark contrast to the racist violence of Fortress Europe, whose deliberate negligence regularly allows people from across the Global South to die at its borders.

Two years ago, the Polish state declared a state of emergency, creating an exclusion zone that journalists and activists could not access. With the support of the EU and the UK, the Polish state built a 180km fence along its border with Belarus.  This was in response to Belarus openly encouraging migrants to come to Belarus on the promise that from there
they could easily enter the EU – using them as a geopolitical tool to put pressure on the eastern states of the EU.

While the exclusion zone is now gone, every day scores of migrants still cross the border only to be met with the unaccountable violence of the Polish border force, armed with guns, pepper spray and dogs. Similar stories are playing out on the borders with Latvia and Lithuania, and the militarisation of the border has only worsened with the invasion of

Both the Polish and Belarusian governments cannot escape the logic of states – they dehumanise the migrants, seeing them not as people but as threats to their security and control. While Belarus seeks to use migrants as a weapon, the EU sees them as an existential threat.

Migrants are lured to Belarus and coerced into paying thousands of US dollars before being detained in camps and subject to brutal repression including rape, being bitten by dogs, and having food and water withheld. The Belarusian police then push these migrants to the border fence and force them across, sometimes through the freezing rivers that make up part of the border, or deep in the Bialowieza Forest.

Migrants have drowned or frozen to death, pregnant women have miscarried, and countless people have sustained injuries at the hands of the Belarusian police, crossing the wall, or in the forest. However, they find no safe haven in Poland. Border guards indiscriminately torture migrants with beatings and pepper spray, including stripping migrants and using it on their genitals. Migrants are robbed of their belongings and pushed back through the fence to Belarus, in contravention of the much-touted EU laws on refugees.

This process then repeats in a cycle of violence as migrants who are trapped in a no-man’s land are forced to repeat this crossing until they can successfully evade Polish police or are finally detained for years in one of Poland’s detention camps to await deportation.

While states can only pretend they can wash their hands of the responsibility for migrants’ safety, anarchists from across Poland come to the eastern region and conspire with locals to provide practical solidarity with people on the move. Teams travel into the forest to give migrants food, water and clothes and provide badly needed medical aid that, if the migrants were to seek at hospital, would only lead to their deportation.

Borders are the invention of the state. The sanctity and integrity of the state is reliant on these borders being militarised and impermeable. Borders exist not only at the frontiers of our countries, but exist as institutions in our workplaces, healthcare and education system.
Undocumented migrants face the full force of the violence of the state, often with no recourse to justice. The only solidarity they can rely on is grassroots solidarity. And if we are to abolish the state, we need to abolish borders, wherever they lie.

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