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Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 August 2006, 18:00 GMT 19:00 UK
EU tunnel crossing ends in farce
By Artyom Liss
BBC News, Moscow

Belarusian border guard. File photo
The border between Belarus and Poland is heavily guarded
Two Egyptian men are awaiting trial in Russia after several attempts to burrow their way under various European borders using nothing but shoehorns.

The men - both believed to be in their 20s - started in Belarus and dug a tunnel under the border with Poland.

But once in Poland, they lost their way, ending up where they started - in front of barbed wire.

Thinking they were now looking across the German border, the pair did the trick again.

But instead of getting to Germany, they ended up back in Belarus.

Minutes later, the two men were arrested by Belarussian border guards and later sentenced to 10 days in jail.

Belarus is separated from the European Union by kilometres of barbed wire, guard towers, automated sirens and powerful search lights.

Prosecutors say the would-be migrants did not go for the easy option of using a spade - apparently, they thought buying one in a shop would immediately give the game away.

The two Egyptian men travelled to Belarus from neighbouring Russia where they arrived on tourist visas a few months ago.

Second attempt

But even the prison term did not stop the pair.

map

When Belorussian authorities released the men and put them on a train back to Moscow, the officials were hoping that the Egyptians would never return.

But the two men got off the train hundreds of miles away from the Russian capital and decided to have another go.

This time, they chose the border between Russia and Ukraine as their starting point.

But the men clearly ran out of luck. Russian border guards arrested the Egyptians long before they got anywhere near Ukraine.

"I know it all sounds like a really bad joke," Evgeny Petrov from the Bryansk regional prosecutor's office told the BBC.

"But we've checked the story time and again, and it seems to be true! I must say, this is the weirdest way of illegally crossing the border I've ever come across," Mr Petrov said.

The migrants are now in pre-trial detention in Russia, expecting a legal hearing.

If convicted, they will have to pay a fine, and will then be extradited back to Egypt.

This time, police officers will probably escort them all the way to the departure gates of Moscow's Sheremetyevo international airport.


SEE ALSO
Poland toughens border controls
01 Oct 03 |  Europe
Poland seeks EU help on Belarus
30 Jul 05 |  Europe

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