Migrant rights groups fear there may be many more undiscovered bodies of migrants in the forested border area | Source: Facebook 'Czaban Robi Raban'
Migrant rights groups fear there may be many more undiscovered bodies of migrants in the forested border area | Source: Facebook 'Czaban Robi Raban'

Three more dead bodies, believed to be those of migrants, have been found at the Polish-Belarusian border in recent days. The Polish Border Guard says it was not told that a fourth woman, found dead over a week ago, needed medical care.

The remains of a man's body were found at around noon last Thursday (February 16) in the Bialowieza Forest, according to Polish media reports. His body, already largely decomposed, was discovered by a resident of nearby Podlaskie, reported the digital issue of Gazeta Wyborcza (Wyborcza Gazette). "It is not known how long the deceased had been lying in the forest and whether wild animals had contributed to the disintegration of the body," the paper said.

"How many fewer fatalities would there be if it was safe to seek help in Poland?," said a tweet from the refugee support group Rescue Foundation (Fundacja Ocalenie), which took part in the search for the man, along with members of several other rights organizations, as well as the Mammal Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences, locals and police.

Podlaskie police had been given information about a missing Yemeni man who had become separated from his group after crossing the border in January, but it was not clear whether the body they found was that of the Yemeni.

9 bodies found this year

The same day, police also discovered the bodies of a woman and a man in the river Swislocz, on a stretch of the border with Belarus, east of Bialystok, according to Gazeta Wyborcza.

Their deaths are being investigated by Polish prosecutors and police, the news channel TVN24 reported. "Within one day we have three bodies, within one week we have four," Mariusz Kurnyta, a member of the group Forest Man (Czlowiek Lasu) was quoted by TVN24 as saying.

Many other migrants reported to humanitarian groups as missing are believed to have died in the forested border region. Czlowiek Lasu posted a notice on Tuesday about another migrant from Congo who was last seen in 2022.

Since the beginning of this year, the bodies and remains of a total of nine people have been discovered in the forested area, activists say. Several of them remain unidentified.

Earlier this month, a deceased 28-year-old Ethiopian woman was found by two members of the Podlaskie Humanitarian Emergency Service (POPH), the same group that also notified the Hajnowka police of the missing migrants on Thursday.

The activists had said that two other Ethiopians, who had been traveling with the deceased woman, had gone to the police to seek help after she became ill. But they claimed that instead of providing assistance, the police alerted the border guard, who took the two Ethiopians back to the border crossing with Belarus in a practice known as a pushback (expulsion without the possibility to request international protection).

Also read: Belarus-Poland crisis: Death and misery at the border

Border Guard: Ethiopians 'illegally present'

The Polish Border Guard has confirmed that on February 4, it received information from Hajnowka police about two Ethiopian citizens "suspected of being illegally present on the territory of our country."

"It turned out that they had entered Poland illegally by crossing the border river on the territory of the Border Guard post in Bialowieza," spokesperson Major Katarzyna Zdanowicz wrote in an email to InfoMigrants on February 16.

"The foreigners informed the officers that they had illegally crossed the border in a group. They showed a pin with the location, where they separated from the other persons," Zdanowicz continued.

The location they had identified is known as "the place where foreigners are picked up after illegally crossing the border by couriers," according to Zdanowicz.

"It did not appear from the conversation that there was anyone there who needed medical assistance."

Zdanowicz confirmed that the Ethiopian citizens were taken back to the border "in accordance with applicable regulations." But she said they "did not ask for international protection in our country and did not require medical assistance."

The Ethiopian woman’s death is being investigated.

In 2021, large numbers of migrants, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, tried to enter the European Union via Belarus, but were stopped at the borders of Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Many have been left stranded in the forests or pushed back to Belarus, according to human rights groups.

Grupa Granica, an NGO network monitoring the situation of migrants at the Polish-Belarusian border, says at least 37 migrants have died on the border since August 2021.

Note: InfoMigrants relied on machine translations of the media reports cited in this article

Also read: Poland's border wall hasn't stopped the flow of migrants from Belarus


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