Michelle Bachelet calls on Warsaw and Minsk to resolve ‘unbearable situation’ at shared border, where hundreds of people are stranded in icy conditions.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called on Belarus and Poland to de-escalate the “unbearable” migrant crisis on their shared border, saying those stranded at the border should not spend another night without shelter. in icy temperatures.
Bachelet’s remarks on Wednesday came after Warsaw said it had moved thousands more troops to the border after hundreds of people tried. overnight to cross from Belarus to Poland.
Minsk has accused Polish security forces of illegally repatriating asylum seekers to Belarus.
Hundreds of people are currently camping along the border, a fraction of the estimated 4,000 migrants and refugees gathered in areas near the border, including nearby forests.
“I call on the states concerned to take immediate steps to de-escalate and resolve this intolerable situation in line with their obligations under international human rights law and refugee law,” Bachelet said in a statement.
“These hundreds of men, women and children should not be forced to spend another night in icy weather without adequate shelter, food, water and medical care,” she said. “Under international law, no one should ever be prevented from seeking protection, and individual consideration should be given to their protection needs.”
Bachelet appealed to aid workers, lawyers and journalists for those stranded.
She said action by both Warsaw and Minsk “including through the increased deployment of troops – and associated inflammatory rhetoric” had increased the vulnerability and risks facing migrants.
‘Manifestation of State Terrorism’
Poland and other member states of the European Union accuse Belarus of encouraging migrants and refugees to try to cross the shared border in retaliation for Western sanctions on Minsk imposed in the wake of a disputed August 2020 election that longtime President Alexander Lukashenko has given a sixth term.
The bloc’s 27 ambassadors will agree on Wednesday that the growing number of people flying to Belarus to reach the EU border amounts to “hybrid warfare” by Lukashenko – a legal basis for new punishments allegedly inflicted on dozens of Belarusians target individuals and entities.
European Council President Charles Michel said the bloc should act with “solidarity” over the border crisis as he visited Warsaw on Wednesday.
“We are facing a hybrid, brutal, violent and unworthy attack, and we can only respond to this with firmness and unity, in line with our core values,” he told reporters during a joint press conference with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz. Morawiecki, who described the unfolding situation as a “manifestation of state terrorism”.
Minsk, backed by Russia, denies engineering of the migrant crisis and instead blames European powers and the United States for the plight of those stranded.
Moscow has blamed the EU for the situation and condemned Western plans for further sanctions against Belarus, a country it sees as a strategic buffer against NATO.
Russia has sent two nuclear-capable strategic bombers to patrol Belarussian airspace in proof of support for its ally.