Surrounding Europe with the walls is not the solution to the challenge we face. Migration due to wars or the overnight climate crisis will be gaining momentum. This is the last moment to develop a rational and humane migration policy. Without humiliating and violating human rights.
When the topic of the migration crisis and the provision of aid to refugees by Poland is mentioned, the argument “it is impossible to let everyone in” still appears. Indeed, Poland cannot provide shelter to all the needy in the world, but nobody expects that of us. However, it is necessary to help those who are already in Poland and think about how to support those who are yet to come here. Because they will come for sure – it cannot be avoided. And no wall or barbed wire can stop a person from fleeing the hell that war is.
Being a refugee is not a crime
“Asylum” – it is enough for the foreigner to say this word to the border guard, and the procedure for international protection will begin. The refugee does not need to have any documents, nor even explain their reasons for migration to the border guard. According to the non-refoulement principle, the state in which the immigrant applies for international protection has no right to expel them during the procedure. This is how the process of applying for protection under international law begins. All legal matters related to being a refugee are regulated by the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (also known as the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951) and the New York Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees; Poland is a party to both of them.
The convention prohibits the imposition of penalties for illegal border crossing and stay on refugees coming from areas where they are at risk of danger and persecution. On the other hand, the New York Protocol introduced a provision according to which the refugee status will be granted to any person who has decided to leave their country due to the threat of persecution, regardless of when such a condition occurred. It is also worth mentioning Article 56 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland. It states that refugees fleeing persecution may apply for refugee status in Poland, in accordance with international agreements that are binding on Poland. In the light of these provisions, the recent activities of the Polish services in Usnarz Górny and other border areas are illegal.
Let us fight the Lukashenko regime, not the victims of his policy
Yes, Alexander Lukashenko uses migration blackmail against Poland and Lithuania to take revenge for the sanctions imposed on Belarus and lending support to the Belarusian opposition. Yes, he is doing it to destabilize the situation in the European Union. It is impossible to argue with these facts. However, for his cynical political game he uses not ammunition. These are people who dream of safety for themselves and their families. They are not hired actors, as some say, but people with individual stories and experiences. They are victims of Lukashenko’s actions, just like the Polish state. Their life tragedies and desperation were taken advantage of. Some of them did not even know that they ended up in Poland. Others were beaten and intimidated. Their goal is, above all, to feel at least a substitute for security. To achieve this, they are able to endure a lot of humiliation and suffering.
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If we are really interested in the reasons why refugees do not apply for international protection in Belarus, let us ask them about it. Let us give them the floor. The actions that can be observed for over 2 weeks in Usnarz Górny only show Lukashenko that Poland was provoked and that his actions are bringing the planned result. They arouse fear and hostility, and spread disinformation. They influence the perception of Polish authorities by voters. Added to this is the argument that Poland is openly acting in an inhumane manner and does not respect human rights. So why can the Polish government require the president of Belarus to abide by the principles of democracy and humanitarianism?
What should Poland do?
The Polish government should, above all, respect the principles of international law. There is no excuse for inhumane treatment. The explanation of the Polish authorities that the Belarusians should help the refugees located near Usnarz Górny is just as irrational as the statement that serving a sandwich to a hungry man at the border is smuggling. Besides, let us face it – almost no one already recognizes Belarus as a safe country that can offer international protection to anyone.
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The competencies of state authorities include accepting an application for international protection. After that, if they have crossed the border illegally, placing the foreigner in a guarded center. The next task of the Polish services is to check whether a given immigrant is entitled to international protection. If so, they receive refugee status or some other form of protection. If it turns out that protection is not due, the foreigner should be deported. The competencies of Polish services include checking whether a given immigrant endangers the security of the state and whether they are under international protection. However, every refugee has the right to apply for international protection. Guarding state borders and fighting against Lukashenko’s regime do not exclude the humanitarian treatment of refugees.
Surrounding Europe with a wall is not an option
The migration crisis that has been going on for years. As the number of failed states and conflict regions increase, and, above all, the climate change advances, the migratory movements to Europe will intensify. The solution to this problem is not to surround the European Union with walls or barbed wire. This is the last moment to develop a common and sensible migration policy. One that is not only humane, but also complies with international law. And that cares for the interests and safety of the native population of a given country. In Poland, and in many European countries, there are practically no systemic integration activities directed at foreigners. In addition, Polish society is not widely educated in terms of multiculturalism. As a result it is not prepared for everyday interactions with people from other cultures.
Let us assess the situation realistically
For many refugees, Poland is only a transit country, and there is nothing wrong with that. Faced with a choice, most of us would prefer to live in the country where our family or countrymen live. Not to mention a country where the conditions are better, and above all, where we are welcomed. When Poland decides to shelter refugees, “half of Africa” will suddenly not come here. This reasoning is unfounded. Many opponents of helping refugees also argue that states must have their borders. As well as that those borders must be protected and know who is crossing them. However, border protection does not exclude assistance to refugees. We should also note that crossing the border in the Schengen area is not difficult; and we are happy to use it. The threat of freely crossing borders, such as crime increase, existed long before the migrant crisis began. So why do people fleeing war have to fall on the sword?