The government of Poland has begun an urgent project to build a 180km long, 5.5m-high wall on its border with Belarus.
Krzysztof Mroz, a senator with the Law and Justice party, told Polish television that work could begin as soon as 15 December. “We are completing the selection of contractors,” he added.
The senator’s comments follow remarks by Mariusz Kaminski, Poland’s interior minister, that work on a wall would be carried out in three shifts a day, seven days a week. The aim is to complete the work by next summer.
The wall, which would be fitted with motion sensors and night-vision cameras, will replace a 2.5m-high barrier of barbed wire. The wall is defended by troops, and the area has been put off limits to journalists and aid workers.
The Polish parliament voted to build the wall in October after thousands of people, mainly from the Middle East and Asia, attempted to cross into the country from Belarus.
Poland says about 500 people a day are trying to cross into the country, compared with 120 in the whole of last year. At least eight migrants have died along the border, according to the UN.
Barbora Cernusakova, a researcher with Amnesty International, told the BBC that a wall was unlikely to deter migrants.
She said: “What we know from the past experiences at other borders is that it makes very little difference. It may extend the time that makes the journey even more difficult, but it’s not really an effective way to deal with the situation.”
The wall is expected to cost around €350m, and would cover about half of the border between the two countries.