Poland finally lifts state of emergency on Belarusian border

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Poland ended its state of emergency on Friday, reopening a strip of land parallel to its border with Belarus to foreigners. This “exclusion zone”, created 10 months ago, blocked aid groups, the media and civil society groups to see what happened in this stretch of the border, where migrants and asylum seekers have often tried to enter the European Union. The state of emergency also made it a crime to help people stranded in the forest.

While the end of the state of emergency is a positive development, the humanitarian crisis at the border continues. The Polish authorities must act to protect the rights of these migrants and asylum seekers. Instead, entry restrictions remain in the area 200 meters from the Belarusian border, and the construction of a 187-kilometer-long wall along this border is almost complete.

Yet the number of migrants and asylum seekers arriving in Belarus continues to rise, and there is little reason to believe that the wall will prevent people fleeing war, persecution or other threats from reaching the EU.

In August 2021, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, reacting to EU sanctions against Belarus, encouraged potential migrants to travel to Belarus and then seek to cross the EU’s external border. Since then, thousands of migrants and asylum seekers, including from Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan, have traveled to the Polish-Belarusian border. However, many have been denied the chance to apply for asylum in the EU. In violation of international law, Polish border guards engaged in summary, sometimes violent, pushbacks. As a result, thousands of people have been trapped in horrific conditions in the border area between Poland and Belarus, suffering abuse and human rights violations, including rape, beatings, robbery , extortion and inhumane treatment by Belarusian border guards and other security forces. .

By contrast, on the border between Ukraine and Poland, more than 2 million Ukrainians fleeing war have rightly been welcomed with dignity and open arms.

Access to the Polish asylum procedure should depend on applications for international protection, not on skin color, religion or nationality. Authorities must ensure that no person seeking to enter the country is subject to their rights being abused or violated, and that anyone wishing to seek asylum is permitted to do so, under a fair and non-discriminatory procedure.


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