Poland’s Marcin Pryzdacz discusses migrant crisis in Belarus
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The EU has been blaming Belarus for deliberately orchestrating the flow to put pressure on the bloc in retaliation for sanctions it had slapped on Minsk over human rights abuses. But whilst the bloc has been successful in putting pressure on non-EU countries to suspend flights to Belarus, member states are still supplying aircraft to Belarus’s national airline Belavia.
EU diplomats told Politico that some Irish companies are still supplying planes to Belavia which are used to transport migrants to the EU’s border.
One furious diplomat said: “It beggars belief that Belavia can still rely on aircraft leased from EU companies to pursue its trafficking operations on behalf of the murderous regime in Minsk.
“This needs to stop. No EU company should be allowed to lease aircraft to a company that engages in human trafficking.
“It is a question of credibility that the EU puts an end to these nefarious activities.
“The Foreign Affairs Council on Monday is a good opportunity to look into the matter.”
Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics called on Monday for more economic sanctions on Belarus to increase pressure on President Alexander Lukashenko.
Mr Rinkevics said sanctioning national airline Belavia was one measure that he hoped would be discussed by EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.
Austria and the EU’s top diplomat immediately voiced support.
“We need to introduce stricter sanctions … It means to put so-called tourism companies that are organising flights (under sanctions), I also believe that we need to sanction Belavia fully, so that it cannot receive any kind of support,” Rinkevics said.
Poland’s parliament passed legislation on Thursday that human rights advocates say aims to legalise pushbacks of migrants across its borders in breach of the country’s commitments under international law.
Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have reported sharp increases in migrants from countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq trying to cross their frontiers from Belarus, in what Warsaw and Brussels say is a form of hybrid warfare designed to put pressure on the EU over sanctions it imposed on Minsk.
Rights groups have criticised Poland’s nationalist government over its treatment of migrants at the border, with accusations of multiple illegal pushbacks. Six people have been found dead near the border since the surge of migrants.
Border guards argue they are acting in accordance with government regulations amended in August and now written into law. The legislation must now be signed by President Andrzej Duda, an ally of the ruling nationalists, to take force.
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The amendments include a procedure whereby a person caught illegally crossing the border can be ordered to leave Polish territory based on a decision by the local Border Guard chief.
The order may be appealed to the commander of the Border Guard, but this does not suspend its execution.
Additionally, the bill allows the chief of the Office of Foreigners to disregard an application for international protection by a foreigner immediately caught after illegally crossing the border.
Under international law, migrants have a right to claim asylum and it is forbidden to send potential asylum-seekers back to where their lives or well-being might be in danger.
The EU’s home affairs commissioner has said EU countries need to protect the bloc’s external borders, but that they also have to uphold the rule of law and fundamental rights.
Critics such as Poland’s Human Rights Ombudsman and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights say the new law does not guarantee effective recourse for people – migrants or refugees – seeking international protection.
“If there are people who have a legitimate request to seek asylum, there should be a way to allow that to happen,” ODIHR director Matteo Mecacci told Reuters.
“I understand there are also security concerns…but security concerns cannot completely overrun the need for international protection.”
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