By Jonny Tickle
With the crisis on the frontier of Belarus and Poland threatening to significantly deteriorate as hundreds of people sit waiting in no-man’s-land, the UN has called for the usage of migrants as “political pawns” to come to an end.
Speaking on Monday at his daily press briefing, the spokesperson for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the 1951 Refugee Convention “to be respected by all.”
‘We’ve been seeing the reports of what’s going on on the Polish‑Belarus border for some time.” Stephane Dujarric told the press. “Human beings should never be used as political pawns, especially when you’re talking about people who are vulnerable, people who are just seeking safety, whether it’s asylum, whether they are migrants in any way.”
Dujarric’s comments came shortly after news broke that a mass convoy of hundreds of would-be asylum seekers were marching through Belarus to the Polish border. Once they reached the boundary, they were allowed through by Belarusian guards and are now stuck at the Polish border fence. The migrants, who slept overnight in a makeshift camp, have since been filmed attempting to cross into Poland by destroying border fortifications and felling trees.
Most of the asylum seekers are from the Middle East. In October, Warsaw reported that more than 23,000 migrants have tried to cross the Polish-Belarusian border.
Służbom MSWiA i żołnierzom udało się zatrzymać pierwszą masową próbę sforsowania granicy. Obecnie migranci rozbili obóz w rejonie Kuźnicy. Są cały czas pilnowani przez białoruskie służby. pic.twitter.com/IpP0wdPXhC
— Ministerstwo Obrony Narodowej 🇵🇱 (@MON_GOV_PL) November 8, 2021
The migrant crisis at the border began in the summer when Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko warned that his country would no longer make any effort to stop illegal immigration into the EU. Brussels has accused Minsk of “weaponizing” human beings by arranging flights from troubled nations and bussing migrants to the border as a means to destabilize the EU.
Minsk has denied all the allegations, claiming it simply is no longer prepared to prevent migrants from reaching the border. The policy change came after some EU countries supported Belarusian anti-government protests last year, which included the imposition of sanctions.
While Lukashenko has been accused of using migrants for political gain, Poland has also been criticized for its treatment of those trying to cross the border. Despite its EU obligations to accept asylum applications, Poland refuses to allow people in, leaving many stuck in no-man’s-land with a serious lack of food, shelter, and other provisions.
In September, Warsaw’s treatment of the migrants was criticized by London-based human rights NGO Amnesty International, which accused Warsaw of the “forced return” of Afghan citizens who were taken back across the border after successfully crossing into Poland.
“Poland has been cruelly holding this group of people on their border in horrendous conditions for weeks,” said Eve Geddie, director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office, calling on Warsaw to grant access to those seeking its protection.
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