HFHR urges EU Home Affairs Commissioner to address the asylum and humanitarian crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border in talks with Polish authorities
♦ The HFHR urged EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson to address the issue of the violations of asylum laws and the growing humanitarian crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border in her communication with the Polish authorities.
♦ According to information from NGOs and the media, there are serious violations of asylum laws and the non-refoulment principle, according to which no person should be returned to a territory where they are exposed to danger.
A humanitarian crisis at the border
In their public statements, representatives of the European Commission have so far emphasized that the current situation at the border is the result of the so-called “hybrid war” waged by the Belarusian authorities to destabilise the situation in EU countries. However, according to information from NGOs and the media, serious violations of asylum laws and the principle of non-refoulment have taken place in the border area, leading to a humanitarian crisis.
EU members must respect the law in all situations
However, regardless of the circumstances, Member States are obliged to comply with EU laws, including laws governing asylum. For the above reason, the European Commission, as a guardian of the EU Treaties, should also draw attention to this aspect of the situation at the border in its public statements and communications with the Polish authorities. “What is particularly disturbing, is that the current situation has led to the death of several foreign nationals, leaving several others in a serious condition. Decisive action is needed and aid organisations and medics must be allowed to work on the ground”, explains Maciej Nowicki, President of the HFHR.
We therefore call on Commissioner Johansson to publicly acknowledge that the border crisis is also about migration and asylum and that the authorities of the EU Member States must protect human life and health, regardless of the legal status of the persons concerned. We also call the Commissioner to comment on the situation at the border and the proposed changes to Polish law in the context of its incompatibility with EU law.
The situation at the border
In its official notifications, the Border Guard reports that attempts of unlawful border crossing by groups of nationals of countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo and others are “thwarted” on a daily basis (in August, approximately 2,000 such attempts were recorded).
According to first-hand accounts from NGO workers, the Polish authorities disregard applications for international protection submitted by foreign nationals who are physically returned to Belarus without any procedure prescribed by law, left in the woods. At the same time, a group of Afghan citizens is still being held in Usnarz Górny without the possibility of entering Poland or returning to Belarus.
Meanwhile, the Sejm of the Republic of Poland adopted a bill allowing for the removal of foreign nationals from the territory of Poland in a situation where they have applied for international protection and without examining whether their removal will not result in a violation of human rights. The bill has been criticised by the UNHCR, ODIHR and non-governmental organisations as violating the norms of international law.
The HFHR’s letter to the Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson
A brief on the current situation on the Polish-Belarusian border