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Rights Group Lashes Out at Belarus, Poland over Human Rights Violations

Published : 27-11-2021

Rights Group Lashes Out at Belarus, Poland over Human Rights Violations

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has sounded the alarm over the serious human rights violations committed by authorities against migrants and asylum-seekers stranded at the border between Poland and Belarus.

In a report entitled “Die Here or Go to Poland”, HRW said thousands of people are stuck in a desperate limbo at the border of Belarus and Poland in circumstances that violate their rights, in some cases egregiously, and put their lives at risk. Encouraged by local travel agents in the Middle East to travel to the Belarus capital, Minsk, they have come to the Belarusian/Polish border with hopes of crossing irregularly into Poland. Polish officials repel those who try to cross, or push back those who initially succeed in crossing. 

According to the report, Belarusian officials beat and detain those who return, and coerce them to try to cross into Poland again, meanwhile preventing them in most cases from either traveling elsewhere in Belarus or returning to their home countries. Unable to move forward or back into either country, people are spending several days or weeks in the open on the border, without shelter or access to basic humanitarian services, including food and water, resulting in deaths, hypothermia, and other sickness and injuries. 

Belarus and Poland share responsibility for this human crisis, said HRW. By November, Polish media reported there had been more than 30,000 crossing attempts at the Belarusian-Polish border since the beginning of the year. This figure could include the same people making multiple attempts to cross, as many interviewed by Human Rights Watch had. Poland has not provided statistics on the number of people detained by Poland or pushed back to Belarus by Polish authorities. A spokesperson for the Belarus government was quoted on November 18, as saying there are 7,000 migrants in the country.

In September, in response to what they have labeled “an attack against Poland” and “hybrid warfare,” Polish authorities constructed razor-wire fences along large parts of the border with Belarus. The same month the authorities imposed a state of emergency on 183 towns and villages within two miles of the border, blocking all access to that area for journalists, civil society organizations, volunteers, and others. On the Belarus side, the 10 kilometers stretch parallel to the border is a secure zone, to which only Belarusian nationals who reside there have access, with the 3-kilometer area closest to the border completely restricted to all but military and security officials.

In October, Human Rights Watch researchers travelled to both sides of the Belarus-Poland border. Migrants and asylum seekers in Poland and Belarus told Human Rights Watch that Polish border guards routinely push them back across the border to Belarus, without due process. In some cases, if those crossing were injured or sick, authorities took them to hospital for medical treatment and gave them a temporary six-month stay on humanitarian grounds. However, the family members of those hospitalized were mainly taken back to the border and pushed across to Belarus, separating them from their loved ones.

Belarusian border guards apprehend those who are pushed back and bring them to open-air collection points on Belarusian territory. Subsequently, the guards guide or drive the migrants to different locations at the border and force them to cross back into Poland. According to people interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Belarusian border guards prevent migrants from leaving the border areas even if they no longer wish to try to cross the border again. Consequently, migrants in some cases spend several days up to several weeks stuck on the border in the open, without shelter or access to basic necessities, including food and water.

At time of writing, there have been 13 reported deaths. The arrival of cold weather in September further exacerbated the situation for trapped migrants. People interviewed by Human Rights Watch testified to violence, abuse, theft, and extortion by Belarusian border guards. Belarus opened a shelter for some migrants near the border in mid-November.

Belarus is not a safe country for migrants and asylum seekers. By pushing back people to inhuman and degrading conditions in Belarus, where they do not have access to asylum procedures and in some cases are met with violence, and by separating families, Poland is in breach of multiple obligations under EU, human rights, and refugee law including the prohibition on sending anyone to a country where they face a real risk of torture or other prohibited ill-treatment.

HRW added that Belarus and Poland share responsibility for the dire situation and the well-being of the thousands of people stranded or trapped on their common border. Likewise they both have an obligation to switch to a rights-respecting response and end the human suffering.

HRW called on Belarusian authorities to immediately stop all abuse of migrants, including pushing people towards the border with Poland. Authorities should also immediately allow access for humanitarian organizations to assist people in need, and ensure that basic assistance is provided, including adequate winterized shelter for all. But more importantly, they should permit those who wish to leave the restricted border area and return to their home countries via Minsk to freely do so. Authorities should launch investigations into abuses against migrants by Belarusian border guards and hold responsible inpiduals to account.

HRW urged Polish authorities to immediately halt all summary returns and collective expulsions to Belarus and stop all abuse by Polish officials of migrants. The government of Poland should also immediately allow humanitarian and other civil society organizations access to the area currently restricted under the state of emergency order for the purposes of saving lives. Journalists and other monitors should also be permitted access.

The human rights watchdog said the EU and other member states should press Poland to facilitate humanitarian access at its side of the border and consider a temporary relocation mechanism to enable people who arrive on Polish territory to be temporarily relocated elsewhere in the EU to have their protection needs fairly assessed.

 

Short URL : https://www.actionpal.org.uk/en/post/12511

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has sounded the alarm over the serious human rights violations committed by authorities against migrants and asylum-seekers stranded at the border between Poland and Belarus.

In a report entitled “Die Here or Go to Poland”, HRW said thousands of people are stuck in a desperate limbo at the border of Belarus and Poland in circumstances that violate their rights, in some cases egregiously, and put their lives at risk. Encouraged by local travel agents in the Middle East to travel to the Belarus capital, Minsk, they have come to the Belarusian/Polish border with hopes of crossing irregularly into Poland. Polish officials repel those who try to cross, or push back those who initially succeed in crossing. 

According to the report, Belarusian officials beat and detain those who return, and coerce them to try to cross into Poland again, meanwhile preventing them in most cases from either traveling elsewhere in Belarus or returning to their home countries. Unable to move forward or back into either country, people are spending several days or weeks in the open on the border, without shelter or access to basic humanitarian services, including food and water, resulting in deaths, hypothermia, and other sickness and injuries. 

Belarus and Poland share responsibility for this human crisis, said HRW. By November, Polish media reported there had been more than 30,000 crossing attempts at the Belarusian-Polish border since the beginning of the year. This figure could include the same people making multiple attempts to cross, as many interviewed by Human Rights Watch had. Poland has not provided statistics on the number of people detained by Poland or pushed back to Belarus by Polish authorities. A spokesperson for the Belarus government was quoted on November 18, as saying there are 7,000 migrants in the country.

In September, in response to what they have labeled “an attack against Poland” and “hybrid warfare,” Polish authorities constructed razor-wire fences along large parts of the border with Belarus. The same month the authorities imposed a state of emergency on 183 towns and villages within two miles of the border, blocking all access to that area for journalists, civil society organizations, volunteers, and others. On the Belarus side, the 10 kilometers stretch parallel to the border is a secure zone, to which only Belarusian nationals who reside there have access, with the 3-kilometer area closest to the border completely restricted to all but military and security officials.

In October, Human Rights Watch researchers travelled to both sides of the Belarus-Poland border. Migrants and asylum seekers in Poland and Belarus told Human Rights Watch that Polish border guards routinely push them back across the border to Belarus, without due process. In some cases, if those crossing were injured or sick, authorities took them to hospital for medical treatment and gave them a temporary six-month stay on humanitarian grounds. However, the family members of those hospitalized were mainly taken back to the border and pushed across to Belarus, separating them from their loved ones.

Belarusian border guards apprehend those who are pushed back and bring them to open-air collection points on Belarusian territory. Subsequently, the guards guide or drive the migrants to different locations at the border and force them to cross back into Poland. According to people interviewed by Human Rights Watch, Belarusian border guards prevent migrants from leaving the border areas even if they no longer wish to try to cross the border again. Consequently, migrants in some cases spend several days up to several weeks stuck on the border in the open, without shelter or access to basic necessities, including food and water.

At time of writing, there have been 13 reported deaths. The arrival of cold weather in September further exacerbated the situation for trapped migrants. People interviewed by Human Rights Watch testified to violence, abuse, theft, and extortion by Belarusian border guards. Belarus opened a shelter for some migrants near the border in mid-November.

Belarus is not a safe country for migrants and asylum seekers. By pushing back people to inhuman and degrading conditions in Belarus, where they do not have access to asylum procedures and in some cases are met with violence, and by separating families, Poland is in breach of multiple obligations under EU, human rights, and refugee law including the prohibition on sending anyone to a country where they face a real risk of torture or other prohibited ill-treatment.

HRW added that Belarus and Poland share responsibility for the dire situation and the well-being of the thousands of people stranded or trapped on their common border. Likewise they both have an obligation to switch to a rights-respecting response and end the human suffering.

HRW called on Belarusian authorities to immediately stop all abuse of migrants, including pushing people towards the border with Poland. Authorities should also immediately allow access for humanitarian organizations to assist people in need, and ensure that basic assistance is provided, including adequate winterized shelter for all. But more importantly, they should permit those who wish to leave the restricted border area and return to their home countries via Minsk to freely do so. Authorities should launch investigations into abuses against migrants by Belarusian border guards and hold responsible inpiduals to account.

HRW urged Polish authorities to immediately halt all summary returns and collective expulsions to Belarus and stop all abuse by Polish officials of migrants. The government of Poland should also immediately allow humanitarian and other civil society organizations access to the area currently restricted under the state of emergency order for the purposes of saving lives. Journalists and other monitors should also be permitted access.

The human rights watchdog said the EU and other member states should press Poland to facilitate humanitarian access at its side of the border and consider a temporary relocation mechanism to enable people who arrive on Polish territory to be temporarily relocated elsewhere in the EU to have their protection needs fairly assessed.

 

Short URL : https://www.actionpal.org.uk/en/post/12511