In this episode of Freedom’s informal series “the fuckeries of Poland“, we will discuss the plight of a group of people from Afghanistan currently stuck on the Polish-Belarusian border.
As some readers may be aware, Belarus, apparently in revenge for the EU sanctions, is attempting to get back at Fortress Europe by allowing (and most likely making a profit from) refugee people trying to reach the Schengen zone a border crossing. Despite it being a no-threat type of issue for anyone bothering to look at the facts, it created an unreasonable level of panic from the country’s EU neighbours. In Poland, the far-right government uses this to flare up the strong anti-refugee sentiments lingering within the Polish society, presenting a group of vulnerable people fleeing a war zone in ultra-nationalistic colours of a national threat. The Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki described the situation in military terms: “a gun held by [Belarusian president] Mr Lukashenka to our heads.”
For two weeks by now, 32 people from Afghanistan (and one cat) seeking asylum in the EU are stuck on the strip of land on the Polish-Belarusian border near the village of Usnarz Górny. The group includes at least five women. Previously, some small children were present, but eventually, they and their carers were allowed, how generously, to move back to the east.
For all intents and purposes, the Afghanis are illegally detained, with the armed forces from both countries ensuring that they cannot leave. While the Polish state denies this claim, the witness statements indicate that the Afghanis were subjected to illegal pushback from the Polish territory back to the border after attempting to claim asylum. This pushback, according to its victims themselves, involved significant levels of physical violence, with border guards forcing them back to the Belarusian territory with guns.
Nobody knows what the state of the 32 people is. What is known is that until 18th August, they were denied access to sleeping bags and tents and forced to sleep on the ground without any shelter from the weather elements. The current weather in the area is wet, and last night the temperature dropped to 10 Celsius degrees. For the first week of their ordeal, the local people self-organised deliveries of food and water. However, the Polish armed guards prevented this from happening. Even the request from women for female sanitary products was denied. The Afghanis have limited, if any, access to drinking water and food and no toilet, and the state of their health is unknown. What’s more, the migrant people do not have a space outside of the armed guard’s sight, leaving them without privacy or space to exercise basic bodily functions. In response, the 32 people limited their water and food intake, or, on other words, they have effectively been forced into a hunger and water strike through shame.
A few days ago, the NGO Fundacja Ocalenie attempted to bypass the armed men cordon by trying to speak with the 32 people through a megaphone, with them replying by hand signals. The guards quickly stopped this by preventing the activists from getting anywhere within sight of the Afghanis.
In the meantime, the Polish state is installing a barbed wire fence on the border, apparently to prevent the “national threat” of war refugees seeking safety. Polish fascist circles also spotted the chance to bring forward their agenda by descending on the local villages to stir the situation to their liking. A well-known crank, fascist, women beater and the organiser of an annual “Independence Day” fascist march in Warsaw, Robert Bąkiewicz has been seen in the area, where he, apparently, went to “protect Polish borders” (and give numerous interviews to the Polish media).
While the European attention is largely focussed on the plight of refugee people in the Mediterranean and on the French-UK border, the pushbacks and grave mistreatment of people crossing Poland’s eastern border seek safety is not a new issue. In 2018, Freedom reported on the grave human rights violations experienced by the people trying to cross the Poland-Belarus border to flee the repressive regime of Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya, with some coming from the Caucasus republics of Kyrgyzstan, Dagestan, and Ingushetia. More recently, the local citizens claim that there may be more of such camps as described above along the 400 kilometre long border. Yesterday, the Polish citizen journalism type website website, Oko.press reported that their journalists witnessed an incident that took place on the suburbs of the town of Supraśl, located about 30 km from the border. “The police and the Border Guard, supported by soldiers, intervened against a group of several people with dark skin and hair, including young children. One of the women was lying on the pavement, the young man could barely stand on his feet.”, Oko.press reported. “The state representatives provided first aid, offered water and food, and called an ambulance. However, they did not give any information, did not allow people from the detained group to ask questions, and the policemen blocked our lens and unlawfully used force to make filming difficult. (…) Military trucks with removed or obscured registration numbers are constantly driving in the area.”
Commenting to oko.press, one of the locals said: “I’ve seen a lot of these people before. You can’t stop them all. There is even no way to come and help, because soon there will be an accusation that you are helping them.”
According to the official numbers from the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs (basically, the Home Office), two-thirds of the undocumented people who have tried to cross the border with Belarus in recent weeks have been turned back. If this is correct, then Poland isn’t even ashamed anymore to include violations of international laws in their own stats.
Image: Fundacja Ocalenie FB. Follow them for more updates.