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Migrants stuck on Belarus-Poland border suffered ‘shocking levels of brutality’ – report

During the crisis on the border with Poland, Belarusian guards used violence against migrants from the Middle East and Africa, in an attempt to force them to enter Poland as soon as possible, Amnesty International has claimed.

In a document released on Monday, following interviews with 75 refugees who were stranded on the border between the two countries, the London-based human rights organization accused the Belarusian authorities of “shocking levels of brutality.”

The report follows last month’s massive growth in the number of refugees on the Belarus-Poland border. The migrant crisis began earlier this year when asylum-seekers flocked to Minsk in an attempt to cross over into the EU.

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Migrants gather on the Belarusian-Polish border on November 15, 2021. © AFP / OKSANA MANCHUK; (inset) German Chancellor Angela Merkel. © AFP / MARKUS SCHREIBER
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The situation escalated on November 6, when several thousand people marched together to the border. Some of them tried to enter Polish territory by breaking down barbed-wire fencing. The Polish border guards have refused to let anyone cross, accusing the Belarusian authorities of shipping in thousands of migrants as a weapon of “hybrid war.”

Amnesty mainly spoke to Iraqis and Syrians, along with people from a handful of other countries. According to the interviewees, the asylum-seekers suffered from “beatings and other serious torture,” including being deprived of “food, water, shelter, and sanitation.”

According to a Syrian man interviewed, he was part of a group of around 80 people driven in a military truck to the border.

“They offloaded us… There were about ten [Belarusian] soldiers and they had four dogs with them,” he said. “They said they would let the dogs loose so if we didn’t run fast, we would get bitten. The soldiers ran after us beating anyone who didn’t run fast enough with batons. After they had chased us for about 200 meters the soldiers turned around, leaving us in the buffer zone in the middle of the woods. Families had been separated. Those bitten by the dogs were bleeding.”

In the same report, Amnesty also took aim at the Polish border guards, “accusing them of playing a sordid game with human lives.” According to Amnesty International Refugees and Migrant Rights Researcher Jennifer Foster, the people at the border “find themselves between a rock and a hard place.”

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© Leonid Faerberg / SOPA Images / LightRocket via Getty Images
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“Stranded in what is effectively an exclusion zone on Belarus’s border with the EU, they face hunger, exposure and shocking levels of brutality from Belarusian forces repeatedly forcing them into Poland where they are systematically pushed back by Polish officers,” she said.

According to Amnesty, many asylum-seekers who made it across the border were pushed back to Belarus without any due process. This is despite migrants expressing their intention to apply for asylum in the European Union. According to EU law, Poland is obliged to consider all asylum applications.

“Polish security forces clearly witnessed the mistreatment asylum seekers and migrants suffered on the Belarusian side, and yet still turned them back across the border fence,” the report continues, noting that the Polish authorities frequently damaged phones and pepper-sprayed those wanting to migrate.

“Thousands of people – including many fleeing war and conflict – find themselves stuck in Belarus in the depths of winter in extremely precarious conditions. Instead of receiving the care they need, they are subjected to brutal violence. Belarus must immediately cease this violence, and EU member states must stop denying people the chance to escape these egregious violations let alone returning them to Belarus to face them again and again,” Foster said.

https://ift.tt/3eclWoi 20, 2021 at 10:07PM
from RT – Daily news

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