A group of migrants or refugees facing border guards at the Polish-Belarusian border | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/TASS
A group of migrants or refugees facing border guards at the Polish-Belarusian border | Photo: picture-alliance/dpa/TASS

Thousands of migrants and refugees are stuck in the border region between Belarus and Poland. The UN agencies for migration (IOM) and refugees (UNHCR) have called for an "urgent resolution" of the crisis to "prevent further loss of life," following at least ten migrant deaths.

IOM and UNHCR issued a statement Tuesday, calling for "immediate and unhindered access to the group [of migrants stuck in the Polish-Belarusian border region] to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided, those in need of international or other forms of protection are identified and those who wish to apply for asylum can do so where they are."

The UN agencies said that it was imperative "to prevent further loss of life and ensure the humane treatment of migrants and refugees as the highest priority." Over the past few weeks, at least ten people stuck in the border region between Belarus and Poland have died.

They called on Polish and Belarusian authorities to "uphold their obligations under international law and guarantee the safety, dignity, and protection of the rights of people stranded at the border."

IOM and UNHCR said that they had "urged the concerned authorities to explore all humanitarian options... including voluntary returns."

Polish-Belarusian border crisis

Thousands of migrants and refugees have attempted to reach Poland from Belarus in recent months. European Union officials have accused Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko of using migrants to retaliate against the EU for passing sanctions against his regime by flying them into Minsk and letting them travel to the border with EU countries like Poland.

Meanwhile, human rights advocates have accused Polish authorities of repeated human rights violations against migrants and refugees, including violent pushbacks. Poland passed a controversial law in October in an attempt to legalize these pushbacks, de facto criminalizing most attempts to seek asylum in Poland.

'Instrumentalization of migrants and refugees must stop'

In their Tuesday statement, IOM and UNHCR said that the "instrumentalization of migrants and refugees to achieve political ends is deplorable and must stop." They added that "taking advantage of the despair and vulnerability of migrants and refugees by offering them unrealistic and misleading promises is unacceptable and has severe human consequences."

They said that they had "repeatedly reiterated to the Belarusian authorities the need to preserve the well-being of people and avoid creating difficult humanitarian situations" and "are ready to support the authorities of Belarus in providing counseling and assess these people's personal situation, in appropriate locations, away from the border areas."

 

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