GENEVA, December 28. / TASS /. UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, is demanding that Polish authorities grant unhindered access to migrants at the border with Belarus, UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch told TASS on Tuesday.
When asked by TASS if UNHCR officials had the opportunity to meet refugees and migrants on the Polish side of the border and verify information on the deaths of refugees and migrants, which was shared by a fleeing Polish soldier , Baloch said: “We are aware of the media reports that a Polish soldier crossed the border into Belarus and the allegations he made. However, it is up to the national authorities concerned to investigate the reported incidents.
The UNHCR spokesperson recalled that the United Nations Refugee Agency “has advocated for unhindered access to people in the region from the very beginning” and has been “in direct contact” with the Polish ministry of ‘Interior and border services. Now that access to the border with Belarus is severely restricted, “humanitarian organizations but also lawyers, media, doctors, volunteers are not there,” he said, adding that the UNHCR ” continues to call on the Polish authorities to guarantee unrestricted access to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in the emergency zone – as specified in the 1991 agreement signed by UNHCR and the Ministry of Affairs foreigners from Poland and on the basis of our mandate. “
“We have expressed our position in several press releases and the advocacy for access to the restricted area for all humanitarian organizations is constant,” he said.
“Although we cannot enter the state of emergency zone, we are carrying out surveillance visits just outside this zone,” he said. “Likewise, we regularly visit detention centers and, together with our partners, offer legal advice and support to people seeking international protection in Poland and Belarus. We have increased our financial assistance to NGOs which provide legal aid to people in asylum proceedings. If we receive distress calls from people at the border, we coordinate with our counterparts to save lives. We have a long history of defending the rights of asylum seekers and refugees in Poland and Belarus, and we continue to do so.
A Polish soldier who fled to Belarus on December 16 said in an interview with Belarus-1 television channel that he was aware of cases where Polish law enforcement officials killed Polish migrants and volunteers who were helping them in the border area.
On December 28, SB.Belarus Segodnya reported that 140 migrants were recognized as victims in a criminal case for violence used by Polish law enforcement at the border between November 8 and 16.
The migration crisis on the Belarusian border with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia worsened considerably on November 8, when several thousand migrants approached the Polish border and set up camp there. Every now and then they attempt to cross fences and cross into Poland, but are stopped by Polish law enforcement.
Poland attributes the current migration crisis to Belarus, saying Belarusian authorities are deliberately inviting thousands of migrants to send them to border areas in a bid to destabilize the situation. Meanwhile, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said that the responsibility for this situation rests with Western countries because people are fleeing their countries plagued by hostilities provoked by their actions.