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State of emergency. Do the Polish authorities break international law on migrants? Expert comments

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According to what law and what regulations does Poland act towards migrants and what regulations does it violate? According to lawyers, the regulation under which decisions are made is contrary to, inter alia, the Geneva Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the EU directive, the Schengen Borders Code, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Material of the magazine “Polska i Świat”.

There are many questions about the reactions of the Border Guard on the Polish-Belarusian border, although, according to lawyers, there are no doubts. According to lawyers, the regulation under which decisions are made is contrary to the Geneva Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the EU directive, the Schengen Borders Code, the Charter of Fundamental Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and these are just some of the agreements that have been broken.


– What the Border Guard does, officially speaking about push-backs, is against international law, it is simply illegal – says Rafał Kostrzyński, spokesman for the Polish representative office of the UN agency for refugees.

Push-back prohibited in the regulation

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The August regulation of the minister of the interior and administration on the temporary suspension or restriction of border traffic at certain border crossing points introduces push-back practices prohibited by international law, i.e. returning migrants to the state border.

Although Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki argues that the authorities behave in accordance with international law, in a responsible and professional manner, Eliza Rutynowska, lawyer for Civic Development Forum, believes that “each person who applies for international protection has the right to be examined individually in context of a specific case “.

Ewa Ostaszewska-Żuk: the decree of the minister of the interior does not invalidate the Geneva ConventionTVN24

This is a guarantee provided by international law and broken by Polish authorities. – If someone does not require international protection, the foreigners’ office decides that the person is not a refugee, then such a person may of course be returned. Only in a dignified and humane manner. It cannot be done as it is now – emphasizes Rafał Kostrzyński.

Breaking the principle of international non-refoulement law

Both the Border Guard and the Polish authorities argue that the refugees are on the Belarusian side, so Poland has no obligations towards them. – The parents of the children from Michałów did not apply for international aid in Poland. They wished to be taken to Germany. We couldn’t do that. They returned to places where their stay is legal – informs the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration Maciej Wąsik.

– We apply double standards to Belarus, because on the one hand we accept political refugees from there, and on the other hand, Belarus appears to us as a country that can guarantee such rights to refugees – points out Eliza Rutynowska.

A group of migrants in front of the Border Guard post in MichałówTVN24

Thus, one of the basic principles of international law, non-refoulement, is violated – it protects people fleeing persecution. The European Court of Human Rights has already ordered Poland to provide refugees on the border with humanitarian conditions and allow them to contact lawyers.

“(…) none of these measures was implemented. The Polish side did not assist the complainants, arguing that they were under Belarusian jurisdiction, and therefore the Polish services could not take any action” – assessed the Human Rights Defender, Prof. Marcin Wiącek.

The regulation breaks the hierarchy of sources of law in Poland

Lawyers point out that no regulation can change international treaties, and international law, in their opinion, makes it clear – when a foreigner applies to the Border Guard with a request for status, state authorities are obliged to accept and process the application. No regulation can change that.

– The regulation is invalid, illegal from the point of view of the constitution and violates the hierarchy of the sources of law in Poland – says Tadeusz Kołodziej from the Salvation Foundation. At the next meeting, the Senate will also consider an amendment to the act on foreigners, as controversial as the provisions of the regulation. According to Rafał Kostrzyński, this novel “greatly restricts the right to asylum, limiting it to such cases that are, in principle, only theoretically possible”.

Main photo source: Artur Reszko / PAP

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