Poland says water cannon will be used on migrants as violence grows

THORNGAARD, Poland — The mayor of this Polish town on the Adriatic coast said on Saturday that water cannon would be used in the coming days to help police quell violence that began with migrants hurling rocks and slingshots at police and worsened when some tried to climb aboard a police boat.

Local police detained about 20 migrants, identified by the local media as Afghans, Syrians and Iraqis, and then took them to a nearby processing center in Poland, where the authorities would look into their asylum cases, said Gen. Jaroslaw Goto, the head of the city’s police.

The migrants are among a group of about 400 who have been trying to cross to Poland from Croatia, Goto said. Authorities in Croatia said that four or five migrants had died in Slovenia over the past day after a wooden boat packed with migrants sank in the Adriatic.

In Poland, police have been holding migrant boats at an open-air processing center on the open pier of a university. Some of the migrants are being placed in special transit camps while they wait for their asylum applications to be processed, which can take days.

At night, they are moved to a processing center on the outskirts of town, where several hundred people, most of them from Africa and the Middle East, are living under makeshift tents set up in unsanitary conditions.

“From now on, force will be used,” Mayor Mateusz Dziemianiew told reporters. “We’ll deal with the latest crisis by force. There will be more consequences than for any others,” he said, according to a report in the Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza.

The Polish head of the United Nations refugee agency, meanwhile, called on EU member states to react to the crisis and start to register migrants, regardless of the matter they might have to show to gain legal asylum.

“It’s really a question of basic humanity for the states that are not providing services to these people,” the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said during a visit to Slovakia.

On Friday, a police boat fleeing the migrants collided with a ferry in the Croatian waters, and four people in the migrant ship were hospitalized with chest and head injuries.

“We may have one of the most tragic disasters in European history as far as migrants are concerned,” Goto said.

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