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Polish wall fails to deter African, Cuban migrants

STORY: This is Poland's 18-feet-tall steel barrier, built on its border with Belarus.

It was meant to be a European version of former U.S. President Donald Trump's wall, protecting the EU's eastern frontier from illegal migration.

But the wall, stretching about 116 miles, may not be enough to halt the steady flow of people trying to cross into Poland.

Joel and Lisa, a 30-year-old married couple from Cuba said they had climbed the barrier overnight from Russia.

Their faces are hidden to protect their identities.

JOEL: "Before climbing up we put both pieces of luggage together with our shoes between the bars. Then we got to the other side and ran."

VOICE OF LISA: "We couldn’t put our shoes back on the other side because the guards were there. There’s a guardhouse every kilometer. You have to run for at least one kilometer to get away from them as soon as possible."

The couple moved to Russia on a student visa in April 2021 as they struggled to feed their family back home.

Lisa's three children stayed behind in Cuba.

But the political situation in Russia became tense because of the war in Ukraine.

Joel and Lisa decided to take the long journey to Spain via Belarus and Poland to join other family members.

Poland started building its steel barrier in January...

...after nearly 40,000 people tried to cross from Belarus between August 2021 and January 2022.

The Polish government also imposed an emergency zone near the border and began a campaign of pushing migrants back to Belarus.

Critics say this sparked a humanitarian catastrophe.

But Poland insists the measures were necessary in response to what it called Belarus' provocations.

The wall was completed last month.

But Grupa Granica, a coalition of NGOs said people still go over, under or through it.

Paulina Bownik is the doctor who has provided medical help to over 300 people since last August.

"We have people in the woods all the time. We have more and more of them and I don't believe the wall will stop them. Whether there are cameras, perimeter or any other systems or not, people will find a way to get here."

This year, the border guard recorded less than 5,900 attempts to illegally enter Poland from Belarus, compared with nearly 40,000 between August and December 2021.

What has changed, however, is that most migrants use Russia to get to Europe.

Unlike last year, when the majority came from the Middle East via Belarus, according to the Polish border guard.

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