Europe’s shame: The horrific treatment of refugees on the Poland-Belarus border


Belarus police. PHOTO/Homoatrox/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0, license linked at bottom of article

A humanitarian crisis is deepening on Europe’s borders as one country after another militarises itself against the movement of refugees and desperate people, writes Kevin Ovenden

For anyone with any sense of history, the most shocking aspect is the thousands of refugees facing sub-zero temperatures and hiding in the forested no-man’s land between Poland, in the European Union, and neighbouring Belarus, an EU bogeyman. Lithuania, which neighbours both, has announced a state of emergency and the fortification of its border.

What is happening to the refugees, who are from Middle Eastern and African countries devastated by war and economic depredations, is not (yet) genocidal killing. But it is still a murderous state policy. As of last Thursday at least eight refugees had died from hypothermia or exhaustion on the Polish border. And it is happening in the area where 80 years ago mass killing took place and Jewish people fled to similar forests to seek refuge.

That, alone, should sound an alarm of recognition and of urgency for the labour movements across Europe and in Britain.

Further, there are specifics over the crisis on the EU’s north-eastern border. But it is not unique. It is happening in Greece, Croatia and the Balkans. It is happening with British Home Secretary Priti Patel aiming to break any legal restraint or international obligation with a policy that will drown refugees and migrants in the Channel. It is happening from West to East in the Mediterranean as the EU franchises out its border policy to organised criminal militias and warlords in North Africa.

What is happening on the Poland-Belarus border? This excellent piece by Gavin Rae provides inportant background:

‘Thousands of refugees have arrived in Belarus in recent weeks, expecting that they could then travel to the European Union. Following the Polish government’s and European Union’s active support for the opposition movement in Belarus, the Belarussian authorities have responded by not preventing refugees from trying to cross the Polish border. The Polish government has accused them of engaging in a “hybrid war”’ with Poland and actively encouraging the refugees to attempt to enter Poland. If this is true, then the Polish government has played into the Belarussian government’s hands through its inhumane treatment of refugees, allowing them to portray Poland as a state that does not respect human rights.’

The government of Alexander Lukashenko in Belarus is authoritarian and is using the crisis for his own ends – to try to remove EU sanctions put in place on account of the repression of opposition forces. But the authoritarian Polish government which is refusing to allow refugees in is doing the same.

Counterfire for more

Comments are closed.