The Granica Group has published a report on the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border. Activists write about the growing violence by Belarusian officials. They indicate that on the Polish side, migrants experience frequent returns and do not receive assistance in trying to obtain protected status. At the same time, some of our officers “offer food, drink and warm clothes” to migrants before being forced to cross the border with Belarus.
The Granica Group, composed of 14 non-governmental organizations and bringing together activists helping migrants, published on Wednesday a report on the humanitarian crisis in the Polish-Belarusian borderland. “The report is an attempt to summarize these efforts, to evaluate the information, both officially provided by the Border Guard and data collected by the Granica Group,” we read.
The report was prepared, among others, on the basis of documents from the interventions of paramedics, reports of migrants, interviews with the inhabitants of the region and the analysis of official messages of the services.
Belarusians “beat, kick, piss with dogs and rob”
“Reports of migrants and migrant women show that the violence by Belarusian officers is escalating: they beat, kick, piss with dogs and rob them of telephones, money and documents. This is confirmed by the documentation in the form of visual inspection of Polish paramedics and their Individual Paramedic Cards and photographs “- it was written in the report.
The patient after 5 days in the forest. Two days ago he was beaten with clubs / clubs by Belarusian officials; yesterday he ran away from the dogs; he was chilled. (…) Superficial injuries after blows with a blunt instrument (stick) – a 5 × 3 cm tumor on the head, subcutaneous hemorrhage and a slight swelling of the left eye eyelid, discrete traces of blows on the body.
“Behavior of Polish officers less brutal”
The report also extensively describes the actions of the Polish authorities on the border, which have been described as “an attempt to legalize lawlessness”. “Most of the people who manage to cross the Polish border are forcibly turned back and pushed towards the barbed wire on the border with Belarus” – it was written. “This practice is applied to everyone: the elderly, women, children and men” – added.
The authors of the report claim that the strategy of the Polish government is to prevent people crossing the border of the European Union in Poland from going deep into our country and from entering procedures for applying for international protection. “When they submit a declaration of will to apply for international protection, it is not heard and the application is not accepted” – we read.
“The actions of Belarusian and Polish border guards against migrant women and migrants in the closed border zone include various forms of physical and mental violence, such as intimidation, enforcement of certain dangerous actions, arbitrary detentions, collective expulsions prohibited by international law, denial of access to food, water, shelter, assistance and access to protective procedures, as well as the denial of the right to an effective remedy. Their intensity entitles them to use the term “torture” “- the report writes.
However, activists from the Granica Group admit, based on the reports of migrants, that “the behavior of Polish officers is less brutal than that of the Belarusian services. Some of them, before being forced to cross the border with Belarus, offer food, drink and warm clothes.”
Interventions in the Polish-Belarusian borderland
Activists from the Granica Group claim that on the basis of talks with residents of the borderland and migrants, they found that in September there were at least 439 people imprisoned in the border area. “We have confirmation that 15 groups were transported by the Polish services (…). At least 50 other people we talked to said that they were also deported” – they wrote. “Only in three cases it was possible to initiate legal procedures against migrants and migrant women, i.e. to accept their applications for international protection” – they added.
In October, Grupa Granica was asked to help at least 3,600 people. “We have provided help in the form of food, clothes and other necessary things to several hundred people. Usually we are able to help only in about half of the cases reported to us” – reported in the report.
From November 1-11, activists reportedly were asked to help at least 1,330 people. “There were at least 100 children among the people we had contact with,” we read.
Activists say they calculated that by November 11, the Border Group had been asked for help by at least 5,000 people – most often from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Iran. It was emphasized that in many cases, migrants experienced deportation to Belarus many times, and as a result spent whole weeks at the border without humanitarian aid.
The story of one intervention
The report presents the story of the discovery and loss of two minor boys from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This case is supposed to show, according to the authors of the report, that “no procedures work” and what the daily activities of activists look like.
On October 18, they said, they found eight people from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal and Guinea, including single minors. The next day, the migrants informed of their rights decide not to call the Border Guard, because some have already experienced deportations three times, we read.
On October 20, “the group split, there are only two people left with health problems. Servais cannot move, is paralyzed from the waist down. Asser decides to stay with him. They are two underage boys, probably brothers,” we read.
Activists – as they write – took the case of minors to the family court, called an ambulance. In the afternoon, the court appointed one of the activists as a probation officer for the boys. However, from 4 p.m. it was not known where the boys were. “The curator of calling all local hospital emergency departments, a total of 10 facilities. There are no boys in any of them” – the report reads.
Ultimately, the police receive a notification that minors are missing.
On October 21 – as it was written in the report of the Granica Group – the probation officer obtains information which rescue group from which facility carried out the intervention and to where (according to zoning) the boys should have been transported. However, he does not receive an answer in this matter from the Ambulance Service.
“To this day, we do not know what happened to the two boys – Asser and his brother Servais. They did not find each other. No state services admit that they had any contact with them” – reads the report.
Conclusions and postulates in the report of the Granica Group
The authors of the report indicate a number of actions that, in their opinion, the Polish authorities should take in connection with the crisis on the border with Belarus. It was emphasized that humanitarian aid should be provided on the spot, inter alia, by the Polish Red Cross or Caritas. The necessity of introducing humanitarian bridges and restoring the legal procedures for identifying persons crossing the border was emphasized.
According to activists, Polish authorities should change the narrative on migrants, support local communities that have been “witnesses to human rights violations” for months and admit journalists.
“We need to search for political allies. Searching for ways out of the situation must concern the sources of the problems, not only their consequences. In the short term, it is necessary to undertake diplomatic actions related to the imposition of severe sanctions against the regime of Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the airlines cooperating in bringing people to Belarus, as well as establishing cooperation with countries from which migrants and migrants come. All these steps should be implemented at the European Union level “- assessed in the report.
Main photo source: TVN24