A hundred kilometres or so down the coast of Poland, cold temperatures, snow and the dearth of places to shelter migrants are putting them at risk of exposure and even being stampeded as they try to scramble over mountains on foot.
Tuesday’s train to Gdansk was canceled because the platform lacked electricity, forcing refugees to walk farther. Up in the dense forest they were greeted by small groups of hard-hatted men carrying shields. For the past week, they’ve been avoiding them.
Still, at the place where the train was supposed to arrive, people continued to crowd onto the platform. Then one of the men who tried to keep them apart attacked one of the refugees. The refugee pushed him away and pushed him as the man swung a metal pole at him. More refugees stepped in.
The man was taken down in a scuffle. As he was led away, refugees attacked the guard, punching and kicking him.
This was not an isolated incident. In recent days, refugees in Gdansk have tried to cross a frozen river between two mountain ridges in the woods — and have been mauled by angry locals.
“Someone already had his leg broken up here,” said Lydian Kaminski, a reporter with Poland’s leading weekly magazine Ciej Pravda, who was in the camp. “The platform hasn’t been working at all because of the cold. There were people crossing the icy river. People just fell into the water or ended up in the freezing river. Some are having hypothermia. The temperatures are very cold up here.”
The migrants were en route to Gdansk from the Belarussian border, on their way to a refugee center in the Gdansk area.
One man was among them, Adib Najm, a 28-year-old from Syria, who used to be a cab driver. He said he has a wife, four children and is looking for work.
“There is a center there, but there is only 500 square meters,” he said. “Nobody lives there. There is just food, not anything more. My children are hungry. I don’t have money to buy food for them. We are hoping for an apartment. I don’t know if we’ll get it.”
There are about 3,000 refugees stuck in Europe, sheltering in camps such as Gdansk’s Pudlodyria, which is not functioning because of freezing temperatures and there is no emergency phone connection.