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Thursday, September 16, 2021

A state of emergency on the border with Belarus. Activists on the situation of migrants who have found their way to Poland

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Due to the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border, President Andrzej Duda decided to introduce a state of emergency in some of the Podlaskie and Lubelskie provinces. Even before the president made his decision, activists recorded the interventions of the Border Guard against refugees trying to enter the territory of Poland. – There is actually a lot going on. Every night and every day, people who have crossed the border are detained – explained Michał Borkiewicz on the initiative “Chlebem i solą”. Material of the magazine “Polska i Świat”.

President Andrzej Duda decided on Thursday to issue a regulation on the introduction of a state of emergency in some of the Podlaskie and Lubelskie voivodships in connection with the situation on the border with Belarus, which the government had previously requested. It was published in the Journal of Laws on the same day and entered into force. Two more regulations on restrictions in a state of emergency have also appeared. On Monday, however, the presidential ordinance is to be dealt with by the Sejm. The Chamber may repeal them.


Border Guard interventions towards refugees

Even before the introduction of the state of emergency, activists supporting migrants camped on the Polish-Belarusian border registered the interventions of the Border Guard against groups of foreigners who tried to get to Poland. – There is actually a lot going on. Every night and every day, people who have crossed the border are detained – said Michał Borkiewicz on the initiative “Bread and Salt”.

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The recordings include the action of the Polish services on August 28 against refugees in Jurowlany in the Podlaskie Voivodeship. – It was a group of about 10 people. Among this group were children. There was also an elderly woman who needed assistance while walking – said the photojournalist Antoni Mantorski.

With each such intervention, activists try to provide refugees with powers of attorney so that later, already at the headquarters, they would have access to a lawyer. This, however, is not always successful. – When the border guard arrives, takes such people to the unit, it begins to undermine our power of attorney. (…) That there was no stamp duty, that these people did not understand what they were signing – explained Maria Złonkiewicz on the initiative “Chlebem i solą”.

During the intervention in Nomiki (Podlaskie Voivodeship) on August 28, border guards did not allow lawyers to join the group of detained migrants. On the recording you can hear one of the foreigners asking for international protection. – People who are proxies have not received any information about where these people are – Mantorski noted. In theory, plenipotentiaries should be able to accompany them in Border Guard posts, but for some reason this is not the case.


What is pushback?

– It is quite obvious to us that this is a cover-up of the fact that many people are illegally thrown onto the Belarusian side – said Borkiewicz. This is the so-called pushback, which consists in sending foreigners to the Belarusian side of the border and is used by the services on the basis of the latest regulation of the Ministry of Interior and Administration.

This was supposed to be the case with a group of refugees in Narewka that activists found. Lawyers were not admitted to the headquarters. – The next day, I received information that these people are on the Polish-Belarusian border in the Białowieża National Park – said Tadeusz Kołodziej, a lawyer from the Salvation Foundation.

The cousin of one of the detained refugees, Mahmoud, who came to Poland from Germany, also spoke about the pushback. – I know they’ve been detained. They were told they would end up in a safe place. (…) It was a lie. They were taken to the border and pushed out with the words: you must go back to Belarus, Mahmoud said.

Questions for the Border Guard

TVN24 sent questions to the Border Guard about the interventions in Jurowlany and Nomiki on August 28, how the intervention in Supraśl was carried out on August 21, to which facility this group was taken, whether these people expressed their willingness to apply for international protection and whether the guards accepted their request and whether medical assistance was provided to the woman lying on the ground and whether her state of health was known.

Despite detailed questions and a precise description of several situations, based on the material recorded by activists, TVN24 received a general response in which a spokesman for the Podlasie Border Guard referred to the regulation of the Ministry of Interior and Administration. “If such persons are disclosed directly at the border crossing point where the border traffic has been suspended or restricted, as well as outside the territorial range of the border crossing point, they are returned to the state border line. The application of these regulations is obligatory” – we read.

However, activists and lawyers have objected to the compliance of these provisions with international conventions. They also do not see the criteria according to which some refugees stay in Poland and some are sent to the borders. – Lukashenka’s soldiers are transferring people, forcing them to the side of Poland, and the Polish Border Guard is doing the same. We just play ping pong with people – assessed Borkiewicz.

Main photo source: TVN24

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