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EU Should Tackle Unsafe Returns to Belarus – a joint statement of Amnesty International, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and Human Rights Watch

Poland blocks asylum seekers at border in defiance of European Court rulings

The European Commission should take enforcement action to address Poland’s summary returns of asylum seekers to Belarus, three leading rights groups have said today. Amnesty International, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, and Human Rights Watch highlight how Poland is in breach of human rights law, refugee law, European Union law and orders by the European Court of Human Rights.

“The Polish government is forcing asylum-seekers back to unsafe Belarus in defiance of its duties as an EU member state,” Lydia Gall, Balkans and Eastern Europe researcher at Human Rights Watch said. “It’s time for the European Commission to step in and address this serious breach of EU asylum law.”

Since 2016, Polish authorities have been blocking entry to most asylum seekers at Brest-Terespol border crossing from Belarus by train, forcing them to return to Belarus the same day. Belarus lacks a functioning asylum system, and there are real risks that asylum seekers from Chechnya or central Asian countries could be returned to their countries of origin putting them at risk of torture or ill-treatment.

In June, the Council of Europe’s European Court of Human Rights issued orders (known as interim measures) in six cases of asylum-seekers from the Russian Republic of Chechnya that the asylum seekers “should not be sent back to Belarus” until it can examine their claim, and that their asylum applications must be examined by the competent authorities in Poland. Polish border guards have refused to comply with the interim measures and would not allow the asylum seekers – three Chechen families and a single man Ruslan (not his real name) – to enter Poland and seek asylum. Most recently, on 28 June, Polish border guards again refused to allow Ruslan to enter and apply for asylum.

Read the full statement here.


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