“Refugees are returning from the camp with colds, with frostbite and bedsores”
The migration crisis near the borders of Belarus and Poland is in full swing. Thousands of refugees from the Middle East are trying to break into the EU. Meanwhile, the Belarusian side and the European Union are exchanging mutual accusations. Human rights activist Alena Chekhovich told us about the real situation with migrants in Belarus and about the instructions of the local authorities on their account.
Photo: president .gov.by.
Belarusian human rights organization “ Human Constanta '' for a long time she was engaged in the rights of refugees in the republic. After the protests in Belarus, almost all human rights activities in the republic were suspended. 'Human Constanta' liquidated, and the company has little to help migrants. But & nbsp; nevertheless & nbsp; representatives of the organization are in control of the situation.
Alena Chekhovich, a lawyer at the public reception office for foreigners and stateless people, spoke about what is happening in the country.
& mdash; Every day there are more and more migrants in Belarus. If at the beginning of the situation we tracked the number of visitors according to the reports of the border services of Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Belarus, now it is enough to walk along the streets of Minsk and see everything with our own eyes. Every day there is a large crowd of people in the city center with things waiting for transport to reach the border.
& mdash; This information is closed. And & nbsp; until the Belarusian services publish official data, we will not even know the approximate number of visitors. How many people arrive every day, we can track only by the number of flights. We know that now there is no direct flight from Baghdad to Belarus. All fly with a transfer in Damascus, Istanbul or Dubai. A certain category of citizens travels through Russia. These are doubly difficult to track down. We do not have international points on the land border, therefore, many people may simply not be documented.
& mdash; Yes, they mostly get on tour vouchers, get tourist visas. At the initial stage, there was an active propaganda of these supposedly travels. There was an advertisement from the Belarusian authorities about this method of crossing borders and entering the European Union.
Advertising is no longer required. Information spreads by itself, including through internal immigrant channels. By the way, there were cases when migrants were even issued study visas. In fact, people did not apply to universities or other educational institutions in Belarus. This is a fiction.
“For a respite, they return to Minsk, then back to the forest”
& mdash; At the moment, people mainly go to Poland. They are also trying to get to Lithuania, but to a lesser extent.
& mdash; They don't sit there all the time. They will sit, sit, and then return back to the major cities of Belarus to have a little rest. Then they try to cross the border again. This is how they move back and forth. True, we do have information that Belarusian border guards do not allow some migrants to return to the city for a respite. They are detained, placed in makeshift camps in the forest, kept in the cold, practically on the street, so that people & nbsp; do not return to the city and do not stay there for a long time, but again tried to cross the border.
& mdash; There is a room for Belarusian border guards. Sometimes refugee children are taken there for the night so that they do not spend the night on the street. But these are isolated cases. In general & nbsp; impromptu camps for migrants & ndash; this is conventionally a lawn in a forest or a clearing, where people settle down with their sleeping bags and make fires. They are guarded by Belarusian border guards. Nobody provides them with food, water. In recent days, they only began to bring. But it seems that all this is done for the picture in the media. Human rights defenders have no access to these people.
& mdash; Many human rights organizations were liquidated in Belarus this year. Accordingly, human rights defenders cannot carry out their activities on behalf of unregistered organizations, otherwise they face administrative fines or even worse.
& mdash; Now migrants are divided into several groups. Those who still have money to rent rooms in cheap hotels, hostels, hostels, rent apartments. Those who have no money spend the night on the street. They sleep behind shopping centers, in underground passages. Often these are families with many women and young children. And alas, in Belarus now there are no mechanisms to help these people.
& mdash; It is difficult to talk about the attitude of Belarusians to the current situation, we do not conduct public opinion polls. I don't feel much tension at the moment. There are no conflicts between newcomers and Belarusians. But it is clear that Belarusians are not used to a large crowd of people on the street, who, moreover, are outwardly different from them. It is possible that if this situation persists for a long time, the tension will increase.
& mdash; We have not heard that a catastrophic situation has arisen in the border settlements. All migrants are kept at the border, which is located far from the villages. Their movements are controlled by border guards. They only go to big cities for a break.
“Not quite healthy people arrive”
& mdash; We collect information, requests about migrants, transfer them to organizations that can act in the legal field. It's about the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders. We receive a huge number of requests, including for the provision of legal advice. On a personal basis, we provided humanitarian aid, we help with medicines.
& mdash; Mostly with Kurds, citizens of Iraq. I remember well the story of a 25-year-old guy who served in the Iraqi police. He said that terrorists often attacked their site. He admitted that he feared for his life, so he left the country. And there are many such cases. By the way, not quite healthy people arrived in Belarus. Many were already traumatized and wounded after armed clashes at home.
& mdash; According to some media reports, migrants were really dying in the forests. I don’t want to be pessimistic, but we probably do not know about all the deaths that have occurred. The situation is difficult. After all, people return after an unsuccessful attempt to cross the border to Minsk not only to rest and recover, but also to get medical treatment. Everyone comes with a terrible cold, coughs, and some have problems with their legs. The fact is that if they are detained by Belarusian border guards, they have to squat in one place in a cold room for a long time. The legs swell a lot, bedsores and frostbite form. We Engage the Médecins Sans Frontières Mission to the situation so that they can at least superficially examine people and give advice on treatment.
& mdash; They are afraid. Many have expired visas. They are afraid that they might be sent back to their homeland.
& mdash; We know from personal sources that the police officers who patrol the city every day have been instructed not to touch migrants. That is, do not check the documents of anyone, do not speak with them and & nbsp; the more & nbsp; do not delay. Recently, the police came to one of the Minsk hostels to check the documents of the residents. Many have expired their Belarusian visa. This check had no consequences.
“No one wants to stay in the republic”
& mdash; While I do not observe such a desire. Mostly people still want to apply for asylum in the European Union. Although some, after unsuccessful attempts to cross the border, apply for political asylum in Belarus.
& mdash; The problem is that Belarus has never been famous for providing effective protection to people from third world countries. We have had few positive decisions on these issues over the years.
& mdash; Formally, they can open visas there, in fact they cannot. And this is no longer a question for migrants, but for European countries that refuse to issue tourist, work and other types of visas to people from certain countries.
& mdash; I have met very few families who ask to help them get back. These are mainly citizens from African countries, where the problem of armed conflicts is not so acute. Those who come from the zone of constant armed tension do not try to get back home. They hope to the last to get asylum in Europe.
& mdash; It is not within our competence to determine the status of a person. People came for protection. And what is happening now at the border, & mdash; catastrophe. People are actually used as cannon fodder in the political game between Belarus and the European Union.
I hope that Poland will not use excessive violence and military force against defenseless people who do not participate in any way in this confrontation between the politicians of Poland and Belarus. I would like to believe that prudence will remain at least on the part of the European Union. Because no smart approach can be expected from Belarus. If Belarus does something towards transit refugees, it will only be in order to look beautiful in the media.
& mdash; We are in touch with human rights defenders in Poland, but the main hitch is & mdash; access to people who are still on the territory of Belarus. There is no one to work with those who are sitting in the border zone. We hope that the Belarusian Red Cross will not stop providing humanitarian aid. There is reason to believe that the delivery of food over the past two days & ndash; this is a temporary help. Journalists will disperse & mdash; & nbsp; and help will end.
Migrants brought to Belarus storm the border with Poland: frames of chaos
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