A view of the Polish-Belarusian border near Chworosciany village, north-eastern Poland | Photo: ARCHIVE/ARTUR RESZKO/POLAND OUT
A view of the Polish-Belarusian border near Chworosciany village, north-eastern Poland | Photo: ARCHIVE/ARTUR RESZKO/POLAND OUT

The NGO points its finger against Lithuania and Latvia for the treatment reserved to migrants who have been left in the cold, without food or water, at times with fatal consequences.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has called on Lithuanian and Latvian authorities to stop rejections at the border with Belarus. Migrants who are seeking security are deliberately put at risk, MSF says, and the rejections add to their suffering.

"In Lithuania and Latvia, at the border with Belarus, tens of people who are seeking security within the EU are rejected or left in the woods for various weeks," states the NGO's press release dated December 19.

The press release denounces that people in transit, who are denied the right to seek safety, suffer from significant levels of trauma and wounds.

Also read: Latvia: Afghan migrant smuggled from Belarus dies of hypothermia

Numerous persons forced to have limbs amputated

"Fourteen people, among them some children, were hospitalized over the last weeks. Many of them had to have their limbs amputated while others are waiting to learn if they will have to undergo the procedure. All of this can be avoided and is therefore totally unacceptable. People will die if the situation does not change," states Georgina Brown, MSF project coordinator in Lithuania and Latvia.

"A boy told me that he spent a week in the forest. When the border police found him, he felt extreme pain in his feet, to the point it made him cry. He showed his feet to the police but despite this, they rejected him at the border and he had to undergo amputation," she added.

At least 27 person perish at the Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian borders

Over the course of the last year, thousand of people coming from countries such as Iraq, Syria, Cameroon, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo have tried to cross the border of Belarus into Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

"These countries' governments have limited access to their borders and declared a state of emergency. These border rejections are becoming the common practice. The border police in Lithuania and Latvia rejects persons leaving them trapped in the woods without any shelter or sufficient food or water. Last winter, at least 27 people died at the border with these countries, but the real number could be higher," says MSF.

The NGO points its finger to border rejections which "are denying migrants their fundamental rights as asylum requests or access to medical care. MSF is shocked by this recurring practice, in light of the rigid weather conditions and temperatures in Lithuania and Latvia, these practices have serious consequences such as hypothermia or freezing to death. Despite the difficult winter conditions, rejections continue daily, without any respect for human dignity and the rights of these people."

The same day the press release was issued by MSF, the Lithuanian government communicated it had finished building a metal barrier running for 550 kilometers at the border with Belarus. The barrier -- built as a means to contain illegal migration -- started last August and cost nearly 145 million euros.

Also read: Migrants attempt risky Kaliningrad route to Europe


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