A Syrian national is fighting for his life in a Polish hospital after he fell over a border wall as he tried to flee Belarus and seek safety elsewhere in Europe.
Mohammed, currently in a medically induced coma in Bialystok, eastern Poland, died in April after falling from a five-meter (16 ft) high, 186-kilometer (115-mile) long fence erected by the Poles last year. 7 injured and hospitalized authorities.
Mohammad’s brother Abdul told Al Jazeera that his brother broke his leg when he fell, resulting in a wound that appeared to have become infected, leading to potentially fatal complications.
He fears one leg may be amputated to stop the infection from spreading.
The doctors treating Mohammed had prepared for the worst for Abdul, who had traveled from Cyprus to be at his brother’s bedside.
“I don’t think we have a chance,” Abdul told Al Jazeera by phone, his voice hoarse with excitement. “He could die today or tomorrow.”
Mohammad, 58, lost everything in the Syrian civil war, including his home and two farms, and Abdul said he suspected he was being mistreated by authorities because his relative was a journalist.
Like other Syrian nationals, he fled to Belarus, hoping to eventually reach a more stable European country.
Abdul said he was unaware that his brother was planning to make the dangerous journey, however, it was later discovered that Mohammad had paid about $14,000 to be taken to the border.
“So much money, for what!” Abdul told Al Jazeera. “I just want my brother’s wife in Lebanon to see him for the last time. I feel very, very sorry for her; I don’t know what to say to her”.
The Polish embassy in Syria, currently in neighboring Lebanon, did not comment on whether Mohammad’s wife would be granted a temporary visa.
new border crisis
Earlier this month, Mohammad attempted the dangerous journey that thousands of other asylum seekers have made since October 2021, when the border crisis between Belarus and Poland intensified.
Belarusian authorities, mainly through travel agencies in the Middle East, were found to be promoting disinformation campaigns offering routes into the EU through Belarus. Poland and the European Union see this as a strategy by Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko – the closest ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin – to destabilize the region.
Many from the Middle East tried to put all their eggs in one basket, but found themselves in a new humanitarian crisis as the two countries squabbled over responsibilities.
Human rights abuses have been reported on the Polish side of the border, where Polish border guards and police routinely deport those seeking asylum in the EU back to Belarus, according to civil society groups and grassroots organizations working in the border region.
Al Jazeera also reported on victims of Belarusian border guards beating up people returning from Poland.
The constant back and forth through the often wet, freezing forest environment has killed at least 37 people since October 2021, according to activists, but the true toll is feared to be much higher.
The number of border crossings has increased in recent weeks.
“Currently, crossing numbers are likely to be similar to October 2021,” said Antoni Mantorski of Grupa Granica, a network of pro-refugee groups working locally, who said warmer weather could be a factor.
On Saturday, Polish border guards registered 159 attempts to cross the border.
Mantorski said the “same mechanisms” that led to the border crisis remained in place, including Belarus issuing tourist visas and encouraging people to cross into Poland, where they were then delayed.
“It’s illegal and it’s still happening,” he said.
Mohamed’s daughter, a German resident, said her situation was made worse by the suspicion of her by Polish hospital staff.
“When I saw my father, I collapsed in shock, but the doctor didn’t help me up. Instead, he asked my father how he got here,” she said.
Doctors called a German-speaking policewoman — who she speaks fluently — and asked to see her papers before charging her with people-smuggling, she said.
She was both “shocked” and “horrified” by the police’s actions, which she described as “overtly racist”.
She said the police officer warned her ominously: “This may be the last time you see your father.”
“Scared me; I thought they were going to disconnect my dad’s machine,” she said.
“Now, I’ve told all the police – don’t do it again. I just want to know my father’s physical condition, don’t ask me how I got here.”
The police later apologized to her.
A spokeswoman for the Polish Border Guard told Al Jazeera that officials visited the hospital to confirm that the daughter was a family member and to check that she was legally in Poland.
Editor’s note: To protect their identities, Al Jazeera did not report the surnames or the names of Muhammad’s daughters.