On the Frozen Frontiers of Europe with Migrants Caught in A Lethal Game

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The Massini family from Syria, father Muhammad (second left), mother Alaa (centre) and their two sons, with activists. – Getty Images

Asylum seekers are pawns in a conflict between Poland and Belarus

Urszula Glensk and Ed Vulliamy

ON the outskirts of the Białowieża forest – which bestrides the border between south-east Poland and Belarus – a group of seven Iraqi Kurds make their weary way towards the Polish hamlet of Grodzisk.

The latest miles of their journey have been from Belarus – crossing back and forth twice, deported after their first and second attempts. Now a third time: through sub-zero temperatures, across the primeval forest’s marshy terrain. Among them are two children: an eight-month-old girl and a two-year-old boy. When we came upon them, they were afraid to get up off the ground and begged us not to call the police, whispering: “They’ll kill us.”

The infant was still, though not asleep. They looked like waxen figures, their faces blank, though one woman’s face was covered in bruises.

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