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The battle on Europe’s border

Polish police at the border with Belarus yesterday. Leonid Shcheglov/Belta/AFP/Getty Images

Three very different corners of Europe are setting a “disturbing” trend for how rich countries treat climate migrants, says Daniel Trilling in The Guardian. The UK is quietly trying to amend its already “draconian” border laws to give officials immunity from prosecution if they “fail to save lives” at sea. Poland has passed an emergency law letting authorities push back refugees – the latest move in a stand-off with Belarus, which has been “cynically” shipping thousands of asylum seekers from Iraq, Iran and Africa to Poland’s freezing border in revenge for EU sanctions. And Croatia and Greece have been caught forcing migrants back from their borders using a “shadow army” of balaclava-clad thugs. There are films of masked men beating people with clubs and intercepting boats in the Aegean, setting passengers adrift on life rafts in Turkish waters.

For western governments, this is a “dress rehearsal” for the huge waves of climate migration to come. Richer countries have already begun militarising their borders, backed by the rapidly growing “border-industrial complex” – the global market in fences, walls and surveillance could be worth up to $68bn by 2025. Countries desperate to keep people out are easy targets for unscrupulous neighbours that want to exert political pressure. Unless we help poorer countries adapt to the changing climate, our borders will keep hardening, empowering the likes of Belarus and Turkey at a terrible “human cost”.