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Poland-Belarus crisis volunteers: ‘Border police can be very aggressive’ | Poland

The name got here in at about 1.30pm within the afternoon. A gaggle of 15 folks, all Iraqi Kurds, had been discovered within the woods of Narewka after managing to cross the border from Belarus into Poland. One lady might barely stroll. Others had early indicators of hypothermia.

The younger volunteer who answered the telephone – one in all about 40 members of Grupa Granica, a Polish community of NGOs monitoring the state of affairs on the border – knew they needed to act shortly.

If the Polish police arrived earlier than the docs, they might, in all probability, ship the migrants again to Belarus, with the danger that their well being circumstances might deteriorate and turn out to be deadly.

Not less than eight folks have died because the starting of the humanitarian and political crisis with Belarus, which is accused of intentionally scary a brand new refugee crisis in Europe by organising the motion of individuals from the Center East to Minsk and promising them secure passage to the EU in revenge for the sanctions Brussels has imposed on its authoritarian regime. Poland, which has deployed roughly 20,000 border police, has been accused in flip of violently pushing hundreds of individuals again throughout the border.

“We now have about eight groups working close to the border and round 40 folks in complete. At any time when we get get name from the households, we ahead the request to our groups and we’ll verify who’s the individual closest to the placement,” stated Anna Alboth from Minority Rights Group, who can also be a member of Grupa Granica. “The migrants typically ask for meals, water, a health care provider or a pair of footwear. I met a household from Syria who didn’t have any footwear.”

After the telephone name, there was simply time to placed on some heat garments and put together sizzling tea to supply to the migrants.

An ambulance in the border region
An ambulance within the border area {Photograph}: Alessio Mamo/The Guardian

“Working right here within the border area is troublesome on many ranges,” stated Anna Chmielewska, coordinator of the Assist Middle for Foreigners, based mostly in Warsaw. ‘“Initially we can not enter the safe zone [a two-mile deep militarised zone created by the Polish government] which suggests we can not assist folks there. Solely locals can assist in the zone. We can attain folks solely when they can move the zone and meet us outdoors – and a few should not in a position to undergo the zone. Winter is coming and persons are not ready to remain day after day outdoors within the chilly. We’re afraid that dangerous climate will trigger extra deaths.’’

The group have been capable of finding the group within the woods close to Narewka earlier than the Polish border police. They’d crossed the border from Belarus the day earlier than. It was beginning to get darkish and the temperature had dropped to close zero levels celsius. As soon as on website, the group gave blankets and sizzling tea to the households.

“The border police can be very aggressive,” stated Chmielewska. “We don’t do something unlawful however they make us really feel as if we’re. Serving to folks ought to be very regular. However on this state of affairs, it turns into like a secret exercise. I simply really feel in these instances, right here, on this piece of border, what’s authorized is so removed from what’s ethical.”

At about 4pm, the police arrived within the woods. Minutes earlier the volunteers had defined to the group learn how to apply for asylum.

Asylum legal professionals then defined to the police their obligation to permit folks to submit purposes for worldwide safety, citing how any pushback would be a violation of assorted worldwide legal guidelines. There was simply time for a final hug between the asylum seekers and volunteers earlier than the officers took the group away to a border patrol station.

Then the telephone rang once more.

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