UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are alarmed by the latest reports from the Belarus-Poland border and call on States to ensure that the safety and human rights of migrants and refugees are upheld.
On 8 November, reports surfaced of a large group of migrants and refugees, among them women and children, on the Belarusian side of the border moving towards the international border crossing point “Bruzgi”, with Poland, and allegedly settled in a makeshift camp in the vicinity of the border during the night.
UNHCR and IOM have been in contact with both governments and are calling for an urgent resolution of the situation and immediate and unhindered access to the group to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided, those in need of international or other forms of protection are identified and those who wish to apply for asylum can do so where they are.
With several tragic deaths recorded in the border area in recent weeks, UNHCR and IOM remind states of the imperative to prevent further loss of life and ensure the humane treatment of migrants and refugees as the highest priority.
The two organizations have publicly stated on several occasions that the instrumentalization of migrants and refugees to achieve political ends is deplorable and must stop. Taking advantage of the despair and vulnerability of migrants and refugees by offering them unrealistic and misleading promises is unacceptable and has severe human consequences.
The two organizations have repeatedly reiterated to the Belarusian authorities the need to preserve the well-being of people and avoid creating difficult humanitarian situations.
UNHCR and IOM are ready to support the authorities of Belarus in providing counseling and assess these people’s personal situation, in appropriate locations, away from the border areas.
In view of the alarming situation at the border, both sides must uphold their obligations under international law and guarantee the safety, dignity, and protection of the rights of people stranded at the border.
IOM and UNHCR have also urged the concerned authorities to explore all humanitarian options to respond to this situation, tailored to the individual circumstances, human rights and international protection needs of people in this group, including voluntary returns.
UNHCR and IOM also stand ready to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants and refugees at both sides of the border.