EU-Belarus border: fences, pushbacks and human rights violations

In the last days, tensions have intensified at the Poland-Belarus border where hundreds of migrants and refugees trying to cross the Kuźnica-Bruzgi border point to Poland remained stuck at the border. Poland has refused to let them in and deployed more than 12,000 troops to the border.

Since July 2021, thousands of migrants and refugees from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Turkey have been instrumentalised by Belarus to put pressure on the EU, and pushed to the borders with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania. Belarus is adopting the same logic of blackmail as previously done by some Southern and Eastern Mediterranean countries, such as Turkey or Morocco, who often use migrants as bargaining chips to follow geopolitical or economic interests.

Hundreds of people have been forced into the woods at the Belarus-Poland and Belarus-Lithuania borders without food or water for weeks; they are stuck in a limbo in inhumane conditions, and at least ten people have already died so far, either of hypothermia or drowned in the Bug river.

Pushbacks and violence were also documented at the Lithuanian and Latvian borders, where migrants – including women and children – have been detained and pushed back since August 2021.

On 11 August 2021, the European Commission announced that it would provide Lithuania with EUR 36.7 million to support migration management, including the setting-up of shelter, medical care and asylum procedures. Early November, Lithuania started building a 3.4-metre high razored-wire steel fence at the border with Belarus, with a view to completing a 500km fence by September 2022.

On 25 August 2021, the European Court of Human Rights released an interim order asking Latvia and Poland to provide Iraqi and Afghan refugees stuck at the border with Belarus with “food, water, clothing, adequate medical care and, if possible, temporary shelter”, specifying that “this measure should not be understood as requiring that Poland or Latvia let the applicants enter their territories”.

EuroMed Rights calls on the EU to urge the Polish, Latvian and Lithuanian authorities to stop pushbacks and allow migrants and refugees stuck at the border to access their territories as well as adequate asylum procedures.

Migrants and refugees must no longer be an instrument of pressure in a logic of blackmail that seems to be increasingly extended to all European internal and external borders.

This press release is available in Turkish courtesy of EuroMed Rights’ member IHD: