Wednesday, October 27

Migrants die in the forests of the eastern borders of the EU

  • Marta Bivand Erdal
    Marta Bivand Erdal

    Migration Researcher, Peace Research Department

The migrants are guarded by Polish border guards in Usnarz Gorny. The photo was taken on September 1.

But this case has little to do with Polish immigration policy.

This is a discussion post. Opinions in the text are the responsibility of the writer.

the humanitarian crisis on the Polish-Belarusian border it has claimed several lives. September 30, the Polish parliament is extended the state of emergency in an area 3 kilometers wide along the border. The situation is confusing and neither the media nor aid organizations have access to the area.

Humanitarian crisis

Since the summer, a humanitarian crisis has developed on the eastern border of the EU. The state of emergency on the border hides human rights violations, according to Amnesty. Human rights violations by people dying in the forests. People who live near the border speaking of baby crying and about the sound of gunshots.

The right to request asylum is also violated. Has occurred Reject trades, as we know it from the Mediterranean.

The main problem is that in practice migrants are prevented from crossing no-man’s-land in the border area.

There is no sea here. Only thick dark forest of northern Europe. Temperatures drop rapidly in October.

Border control at the external border of the EU

This is the outer border of the EU to the east. Poland’s border guards have received training and funding from the EU to do work for the European Community.

It is true that EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson is now asking questions, following the deaths at the border. But this is not just about Poland, but about the EU as a whole.

Polish authorities learn from experiences further south in Europe. About border fences and the use of mobile phones: According to the Polish Interior Minister, the Polish border guards sent the message ‘Go back to Minsk. Do not take any pills from the Belarusian soldiers’ migrants last week.

Many of the migrants would like to apply for asylum. A proportion would likely meet the criteria and obtain refugee status or humanitarian residency. Many want to travel through Poland to Germany. There are already several immigrants who came to Poland earlier, crossing the eastern border of Germany, even if the numbers they are still low.

There is no general description, but the countries of origin of those in the border areas are usually Afghanistan and Iraq, but also Cameroon, Congo and Nigeria.

Polish soldiers build a fence on the border between Poland and Belarus, near the town of Nomiki. The photo was taken on August 26 this year.

Used as pieces in a fight for power

The humanitarian crisis, including the human rights violations for which the Polish government is responsible, cannot be understood in isolation.

Humans are used as pieces in a power struggle in Norway’s close neighborhood to the east. The man behind this is Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.

Polish border guards report that Belarusian border forces are firing into the air, simulating throwing grenades across the border, with bright light dazzling border guards on the Polish side.

This understood as an experiment about aggravating the situation and provoking the use of violence. The risk for migrants in the border area is enormous. EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson confirm that the Belarusian president is putting pressure on the EU due to the sanctions against the country.

Meanwhile, the migrants pay around 10,000 euros each to fly directly to Minsk from Iraq. They are then driven to the forests on the Belarusian borders with Poland (but also Lithuania) and abandoned.

Migrants roam a no-man’s-land of deep forests in border areas, where in many ways they are now trapped as far as possible.

Humanitarian aid

Since August, Polish aid organizations and people living in the area have been trying to help migrants crossing the border.

After the state of emergency was introduced, organizations no longer have access to this area. The local population, as in the rest of Europe, runs the risk of being prosecuted for assistance to immigrants without legal residence.

Humanitarian actors in Poland is equally present. They assist with emergency assistance, monitor and maintain contact with migrants. They also help in emergency situations by calling an ambulance and continually pressuring the authorities to comply with basic human rights obligations.

The Polish human rights commissioner is also closely monitoring the situation.

Polish immigration policy?

The vote in the Polish parliament speaks of a division Political panorama. While 237 deputies voted in favor of extending the state of emergency, 170 voted against and 31 abstained.

Unsurprisingly, it was MPs from the ruling parties who supported the state of emergency and, with it, an opportunity for anti-migration rhetoric.

But this case has little to do with Polish immigration policy and much more to do with geopolitics.

Who is taking the brunt of the timely and necessary EU sanctions against Belarus?

And why would Afghans who were in Iraq in August 2021, before the fall of Kabul, pay 10,000 euros for the opportunity to try to enter the EU?

Certainly, this is not just a question of what the Polish border forces are doing or preventing from happening.

The battle for history

News coverage of the humanitarian crisis on the eastern border of the EU is perhaps proportional to the number of human destinations. The migrants who lose their lives on their way across the Mediterranean are also not front-page material.

The state of emergency in Poland prevents media from entering the 3-kilometer-wide zone along the border. Therefore, a free and direct coverage is impossible.

Despite this, fortunately, coverage in the independent Polish media is extensive. Many Polish journalists also write for international media.

But the battle for history in the forests of the eastern borders of the EU is something that many share, with very different interests. Norway has also experienced pressure towards its eastern border. The course of events is perhaps less clear, but the use of migrants to pieces Unfortunately, geopolitics is nothing new.

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