Tuesday, November 30

Believes Poland breaks a number of laws at the border

IN THE FOREST: A Kurdish family from Dohuk in Iraq is gathered in a forest on the border between Poland and Belarus on 9 November. The family says they spent about 20 days in the woods and claims they were beaten by Belarusian soldiers and intimidated by their dogs.

– Where should I start? says law professor and migration expert Witold Klaus in Warsaw to VG.

– I’m scared, says Klaus.

– No procedures are followed by the authorities. We have never seen anything like it before, with a state actor acting as a human trafficker and European authorities reacting like this to large crowds.

Witold Klaus has a doctorate in law and is a professor at the University of Warsaw, where he works with migration issues.

He is shocked by what is happening on the border between Poland and Belarus. Neighboring President Alexander Lukashenko is accused by Poland, the EU, NATO and Norway of using migrants as weapons against the EU to avenge the sanctions imposed after the disputed elections in Belarus in 2020.

– I do not like that they are referred to as weapons. It is important not to use military descriptions here. These are people. They should be protected and helped. When senior bureaucrats and authorities use such words, it becomes a completely different discussion, which makes it easy to forget that these are people, says Klaus.

The migrants can be sent back: – Sits with a bad taste in the mouth

– Their only option

He has no doubt that the situation is staged by Lukashenko, through Belarus offering visas to people from war-torn countries and enticing that it is easy to get on to the EU.

– People seize this opportunity, because it is their only opportunity to come to Europe legally. Many of them may have a reason to get refugee status here, Klaus believes.

He is frightened that Poland does not comply with international laws and regulations in the treatment of these people, whether they are migrants or refugees.

– Poland breaks a number of laws and regulations here, in fact. Where should I start? says Klaus resigned.

CLOSED: Migrants try to get through the barbed wire fence set up by Polish authorities, while Polish soldiers are on duty to prevent them. This photo was provided by the Polish Ministry of Defense.

– First and foremost refugee laws. Whether they report at the border, cross it illegally in the middle of the forest or enter other illegal ways, these people come to a country that has signed the Refugee Convention. They are entitled to have their case processed.

The law professor points out that there are a number of documents that must be filled in for each individual person, and that everyone who applies for refugee status must be interviewed and fingerprinted.

– None of this is happening here. Even in the cases where an activist or lawyer is with them, these processes are not followed. They are only returned to the other side of the border. It is also not allowed to deport people in groups. Everyone is entitled to individual treatment, says Klaus to VG.

Considered unsafe

Since the migrants have been granted visas in Belarus, and therefore have legal residence there, Poland could in theory have returned them there if it were not for another provision of the Refugee Convention.

– Belarus can not be considered a safe third country for them. It is not safe for refugees there. The EU Court of Human Rights has ruled in three cases, two of them against Poland and one against Latvia, in similar cases, says the Warsaw professor.

Witold Klaus says that the reason why Belarus is not considered a safe third country is that Belarus is not a member of the Court of Human Rights nor have signed the Refugee Convention.

– In addition, one can now argue that the Belarusian authorities act violently towards migrants. We can document examples of them being beaten and abused.

– Several of the migrants have lost their lives. There should be at least ten deaths now. Does that also indicate that it is unsafe?

– But eight of them are deaths on Polish territory, not Belarusian. These are people who have been left in the woods without supervision or help and have died. And here we are only talking about the deaths that have been found and confirmed. There are probably more deaths, says Klaus.

Witold Klaus also responds that Polish – and as far as Belarusian – authorities are denying journalists, activists and humanitarian aid workers access to the border area.

– In my opinion, it is only for the authorities to be free to behave as they wish. This makes it easier for them to get political support. If you look at the pictures and videos they publish, only material shows how effective and skilled they are and how dangerous the migrants are.

– We are committed

– In your opinion, what should be done?

– A number of things. First and foremost, humanitarian aid must be provided on both sides of the border, to help migrants and to avoid more deaths due to cold, hunger or lack of medicine. Some of them are seriously ill. There are also infants there.

– In addition, we must create “humanitarian bridges”, an area on the Polish side that they can enter while the legal treatment of each individual begins. This will lead to them being safe until they are either granted asylum or have to be returned home. Possibly until they are sent to a safe third country. We are committed to doing this, says Klaus.

He also believes that sanctions against Belarus and the companies that contribute to the migrant crisis are in place. The EU adopted new sanctions on Monday this week.

– VG has met several Poles at the border with Belarus who believe that it is criminal to help migrants. Is this right?

– It is rhetoric that the authorities spread, that it is illegal. It is not. The authorities link this to assisting in illegal border crossings, but what happens at the border is not about that, but about humanitarian aid and the law says that it can not be punished. The authorities are probably trying to scare people and get people to report all the migrants they see to the border guards.

– How is the atmosphere in Poland, the way you experience it?

– People are divided. Some of them support the authorities. If they watch state television, it’s like propaganda. They are fed with the content that the authorities want them to see. They are in a way deceived or misinformed. Then there are others who are ashamed of Poland’s handling. Many people want to help, but do not know how to do it. The population is very divided, says Witold Klaus.

POLITICAL TICKET: A migrant girl holds up a poster with the message “Sorry” in the Grodno region of Belarus on November 11.

also read

EU summit opens the door to border walls in Europe

Since the beginning of October, VG has reported on the situation at the border between Poland and Belarus. Here are some of the reports:


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