The Poland-Belarus border crisis is what happens when humans are treated as weapons | Anna Iasmi Vallianatou

The small fires they are constructing will do little to heat the refugee and migrant households trying to cross the border between Belarus and Poland in a determined effort to succeed in European soil. Freezing temperatures and the shortage of humanitarian help have already resulted in not less than 9 deaths, whereas dozens of individuals have reported accidents, theft and abuse by the hands of the authorities.

One other humanitarian disaster is unfolding on the European Union’s doorstep.

Poland has responded by deploying 20,000 border police, firing water cannon and teargas at asylum seekers, reinforcing its border fencing and blocking entry for journalists and support organisations. This must react is comprehensible: Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko’s use of refugees and migrants as pawns for political achieve, luring them from the Center East to intentionally create a border crisis, is heinous. Nonetheless, Poland’s militarised response is disproportionate, and is – according to the UN – a breach of humanitarian legislation and the best to asylum. However whereas Lukashenko’s actions are appalling, what is actually guilty for this crisis is a string of shortsighted and transactional agreements with the European Union’s neighbouring nations in recent times.

The root of this newest navy escalation – which entails not solely Poland, however a nominal variety of troops from Britain, as properly as EU sanctions and strong condemnation from Nato and members of the UN security council – is a worry of migration that has loomed over EU politics since 2015. Because the Brexit vote, the dogma of “deterrence at any value” has dominated migration insurance policies, together with the deployment of unlawful “pushback” practices at exterior borders, such as towing migrants again on boats they arrived on, rounding up refugees on land and forcing them again out to sea, and casual detentions.

The Polish authorities has lengthy been implementing a strict immigration agenda, by closing its borders – even breaching EU legislation by doing so and defying calls for the humane remedy of asylum seekers.

Poland is no exception. As inner divisions inside the European Union deepen and the prospect of a accountable plan for internet hosting refugees is removed from view, pushing the administration of migration to agreements with non-EU nations has change into the bloc’s go-to resolution.

To safe the EU-Turkey deal in 2016, member states turned a blind eye to Turkey’s human rights violations in return for it stemming refugee arrivals to the Greek islands. By successfully paying the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, to “maintain migrants out”, it was the EU that first launched refugees into international coverage as bargaining chips. From then on, the precedent was set.

'We are stranded': man describes hardship on Poland-Belarus border as crisis deepens – video report
‘We are stranded’: man describes hardship on Poland-Belarus border as crisis deepens – video report

Related preparations might be discovered alongside Europe’s border areas. In Libya, the EU supplied help to the Libyan coastguard to intercept asylum seekers at sea and return them to detention centres the place they confronted bodily and sexual abuse. A standoff this spring in between Spain and Morocco – which is additionally one of many EU’s key companions in controlling migration from African nations – within the Spanish north African coastal metropolis of Ceuta revealed the identical sample of migrants getting used for political achieve. Spain accused Morocco of flooding its borders with migrants – 2,000 of which have been unaccompanied youngsters – after Madrid allowed the chief of the Western Sahara independence motion to be treated for Covid in Spain. Footage of a months-old child being rescued by the Guardia Civil and youngsters utilizing plastic bottles as floats to swim to shore is a stark reminder of the true victims of Europe’s worry of migration.

It is not simply Europe’s transactional migration insurance policies, however the language used, that units the stage for these recurring standoffs. Throughout European states and political events, refugees and migrants are typically introduced as a risk to nationwide safety. Greek, Polish and Turkish media have used rhetoric of “wars” at borders; Brussels, too, has adopted militarised language. Responding to incidents at Belarus’s borders over the summer season, the European Fee president, Ursula von der Leyen, vowed to combat again to what she referred to as “a hybrid attack to destabilise Europe”.

Describing – and treating – refugees as weapons diverts consideration from the true problem at stake: defending the protection and rights of individuals trapped at borders. The EU’s externalisation of migration management doesn’t justify the Belarusian regime’s deliberate techniques to engineer a state-sponsored humanitarian crisis. Nevertheless it ought to alert EU leaders to the hazards of treating humans in transactional phrases.

Questionable migration offers and anti-immigration messaging not solely undermine the best to asylum, however threaten the very foundations of the European challenge – which it’d want reminding of: to advertise peace, human rights and dignity, and to supply freedom, safety and justice with out inner borders. So lengthy as EU nations don’t respect asylum legal guidelines and proceed to deal with refugees with hostility and violence, nations such as Belarus, Morocco, and Turkey will proceed to use its worry of migration. The EU has created its personal achilles heel – and human beings proceed to pay the value.

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