Libereco – Partnership for Human Rights is observing the critical human rights situation in the border region between Belarus and Poland with great concern. The German-Swiss human rights organisation therefore calls on the EU to immediately impose new sanctions against the Belarusian regime. At the same time, it must be ensured that the Polish government complies with its obligations to protect migrants.

In the freezing cold, thousands of people are currently stuck in the no-man’s land between Belarus and Poland. They can neither go forward nor back: Armed Belarusian security forces are pushing the people towards the Polish border. On the other side are Polish border guards, police and soldiers, who do not let the people through. Thus, EU member-state Poland is denying those who seek protection the right to apply for asylum. Previously, Lithuania had also reacted to the increasing number of asylum seekers coming from Belarus with violence, illegal push-backs and the construction of fences.

Against this background, the chairman of Libereco in Germany, Marco Fieber, states: “The main cause of this humanitarian disaster is clearly the Belarusian ruler. For months, Alexander Lukashenko has been unabashedly acting as a human trafficker, but at the same time spreads the lie that internationally organised smuggling networks are responsible for the sudden appearance of thousands of people from war zones at the EU’s external border. It is a disgrace that the EU does nothing to counter Lukashenko’s perfidious strategy. In addition to the ongoing repression of any opposition in his own country, the dictator is now also abusing migrants to maintain his power.”

At the same time, Fieber sharply criticises the Polish government: “Poland’s handling of the tense situation is appalling: journalists and aid workers are being locked out of the border area in order to be able to take action against the migrants without interference. The Polish government is violating human rights and undermining European conventions. In doing so, it is as guilty of the fate of these people as Lukashenko is in the neighbouring country. It is deeply worrying that European politicians largely accept Poland’s actions without contradiction, and in some cases even approves of them.”

Further punitive measures against Belarus are immediately needed

According to media reports, at least ten migrants have already died in the border area since summer. As temperatures continue to drop, more deaths are to be feared. It is clear that Lukashenko’s actions are condoning the deaths of migrants. Libereco urgently expects the Polish government to take a firm stand and stop denying assistance to those seeking protection.

In response to the continuing human rights violations in Belarus, further tough and effective punitive measures by all democratic states against Lukashenko’s terrorist regime are immediately needed. Libereco calls for a ban on advertising by Western companies in Belarusian state media, a ban on trading in Belarusian government bonds, and entry bans and sanctions against all Belarusian government members. As an immediate measure, the EU should expel all Belarusian ambassadors from its member states.

Solidarity with those seeking protection

Since the spring, people from war-torn and crisis-ridden countries such as Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan have increasingly been trying to reach the European Union via Belarus. This migration route is completely new; only the Belarusian regime created it on purpose: At the end of May, Lukashenko threatened not to stop migrants on their way to the EU.

Libereco shows solidarity with all those whose despair about the situation in their own country and the lack of safe access to the EU asylum system is being exploited by the Belarusian ruler. Libereco also fully supports the demands of Human Constanta and Pro Asyl that the German and European governments must stand up for a humanitarian solution and respect for the rule of law and human rights in Europe.