UN urges Belarus, Poland to address “difficult conditions” for refugees

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Migrant children gather near the fence at the Poland-Belarus border near Kuznica, Poland, in this video capture released by the Polish Interior Ministry on November 11, 2021. MON / Handout via REUTERS

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GENEVA, Dec.21 (Reuters) – Belarus and Poland are pushing refugees across their borders and leaving them little or no food, clean water or shelter, the rights office said on Tuesday of the UN man, urging the two countries to remedy “this problem”. appalling situation “.

Refugees and migrants interviewed by a United Nations human rights team on a trip to Poland from November 29 to December 3 said they were subjected to violence or threats in Belarus and were left hungry and cold said a spokesperson for the United Nations human rights office.

“Interviewees described dire conditions on both sides of the border, with no or limited access to food, clean water and shelter, often amid freezing temperatures,” Elizabeth Throssell told reporters .

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Most said that in Belarus they had been beaten or threatened by security forces, who some refugees said had also demanded “exorbitant sums” for food and water and forced them to cross. the border.

Belarusian officials made no immediate comment when contacted by Reuters.

Thousands of migrants are stranded at the eastern border of the European Union.

Poland and the EU accuse Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko of encouraging migrants to travel to Belarus and cross the border illegally in revenge for sanctions imposed in Minsk for human rights violations.

Belarus denies this and claims the EU is responsible for the humanitarian crisis at the border.

Stanislaw Zaryn, spokesperson for Polish special services, said his country’s actions were legitimate and aimed at protecting the country’s borders.

“The migration route, controlled and organized by Belarusian services, is just a tool used by the Minsk regime,” he said.

Throssell said many migrants and refugees interviewed by the UN team had crossed the border multiple times in both directions due to “recurring practices by both countries of pushing people to or across the border.”

Some of them hid from security forces for weeks in the forest along the border, with one making 26 attempts to cross from Belarus to Poland.

The UN human rights office, which said Belarus had not accepted its request for a visit, urged the two countries to “ensure that the human rights of refugees and migrants are at the fore. center of their actions ”.

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Report by Paul Carrel; additional reporting by Emma Farge, Pavel Polityuk and Anna Koper; edited by John Stonestreet and Jason Neely

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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