Poland and Lithuania shield access to immigrants at the border

“You have no right to be here; we are not going to no comment about the situation; for that, go to the border service in Bialystok, or rather go to Warsaw. “

With the face of few friends, two officials from the Kuznica border post they hold for 20 minutes to a journalist accompanied by a Belarusian contact who took Photographs e images of the place. After checking identities and briefly confiscate their passports, the guards remember that since September the state of emergency in a strip of three kilometers next to the border, and require their interlocutors to return to their car and leave the place under threat of arrest.

The scene repeats three hundred kilometers northeast, in southern Lithuania, specifically in the Pabrade town, east of Vilnius, the capital. After a handful of miles in which the road runs parallel to the border with Belarus, in the middle of a desolate wasteland bordering a lush forest, the camp rises where the authorities of the Baltic Republic have interned the migrants who have managed to cross the border. “Not an interview with the inmates; if you want, ask permission in Vilnius,” says a military official while pointing to a phone number affixed to the door glass, number in which nobody answers.

The cold as an excuse

In this place, in recent days, officially due to the growing cold, the inmates have been evicted from the tents that they occupied next to the gate, which in turn is beautiful with the sidewalk for pedestrians, a circumstance that allowed during the summer months and autumnal local informants to approach and converse with refugees through the fence bypassing government bureaucracy. The treatment that the inmates received in the camp had generated many protests, even going so far as to produce during the summer a riot led by migrants who complained about the life conditions and the impossibility to leave the premises, according to Belarusian activists in Lithuania.

That both Poland and Lithuania face the crisis as a security problem exempt from humanitarian implications he proves it haunting message received by all foreign mobile phones as soon as they approach the border area, sent by the Polish Government in English, Arab and Russian: “The border is sealed; the Belarusian authorities have told you lies. Go back to Minsk! Do not take any pills that the Belarusian soldiers offer you.” There is a rumor that Belarusian guards they give emigrants methadone, a drug used in detoxification of drug addicts, to better withstand the harshness of the journey.

The humanitarian workers nor do they have better access than reporters. Robert Onus, director of emergencies for Poland, Lithuania and Belarus, expresses to EL PERIÓDICO his frustration at the impossibility of the staff of his organization approaching ” three kilometers “ of the demarcation. “We know that many (of the migrants) stay for days in that strip, but we cannot access them,” he laments. Despite MSF having had conversations with local authorities and the Polish border service, the negative answer is always the same, concludes Onus, before drawing a gloomy outlook for the next few weeks: “we are going to get worse because meteorology worsens and no short-term solution is in sight. “According to sources from humanitarian organizations, activists who work in the field “prefer to keep a low profile and not speak with the media “so as not to provoke the wrath of the local authorities.

Fear in opposition

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As the crisis worsens, concern grows among the sectors opposed to the Government of Warsaw, headed by the ultra-conservative party Law and Justice – along with Hungary, the most uncomfortable partner that the EU has at the moment – that the authorities use the crisis to carry out new civil liberties cuts, taking into account that the next December 1 expires the term of the state of emergency and that, according to Polish law, it cannot be prolonged. “It can happen“, he affirms without hesitation to EL PERIÓDICO Margorzata Kulwaczewska Figat, journalist for the leftist website Strajk.eu. “They are very creative when it comes to inventing new laws,” he continues sarcastically.

The upcoming construction of the border wall could become the justification desired by the officers to maintain the exclusion zone around the border, the journalist points out: they could declare the issue of “national security”, making that exclusion zone permanent. Kulwaczewska Figat believes that Polish society it’s very polarized around the immigration issue: “Some consider that they are human beings who must be helped, while another supports without fissures the state of emergency and to government“.


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