UN demands action to stop deaths on EU-Belarus border
The United Nations on Friday demanded urgent action to save lives and avoid suffering on the EU-Belarus border, following the deaths of several asylum seekers.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, said another fatality this week meant there had now been eight deaths along the border between Belarus and its European Union neighbours Latvia, Lithuania and Poland.
The UNHCR said several groups of asylum seekers and migrants had been stranded for weeks in increasingly dire conditions, which are set to deteriorate as winter approaches.
“It is unacceptable that people have died and the lives of others are precariously hanging in the balance,” said Pascale Moreau, UNHCR’s Europe director.
“They are held hostage by a political stalemate which needs to be solved now.”
Thousands of migrants — mostly from the Middle East — have crossed or tried to cross over from Belarus into eastern EU states in recent months.
Brussels suspects this is an effort coordinated by the Belarusian regime in retaliation against EU sanctions and has called the use of migrants a “hybrid attack”.
Poland, which plans to build a wall, has deployed 6,000 troops along the border and imposed a state of emergency, which prevents humanitarian organisations from helping migrants and denies access to all non-residents.
“When fundamental human rights are not protected, lives are at stake,” UNHCR’s Moreau said.
The agency said there were 32 Afghans stranded at the border, left in limbo since mid-August and unable to claim asylum or any form of assistance on either side.
“Pushbacks, that deny access to territory and asylum, violate human rights in breach of international law,” said Moreau.
Germany said on Wednesday it has no plans to close its border to Poland despite a sharp increase in asylum seekers arriving via Belarus.
Interior Minister Horst Seehofer repeated EU accusations that the Belarusian authorities are flying migrants from the Middle East and Africa to Minsk and then sending them into the bloc on foot.
The surge in people crossing illegally over the EU’s eastern frontier with Belarus has placed major strains on member states unaccustomed to dealing with large-scale arrivals.