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Polish Border Guard pushes back Chechen asylum seekers

Эта петиция собрала 14 497 подписантов

For the past several months from several hundred up to two thousand asylum seekers mainly from Chechenya have been staying in a Belarusian city of Brest. There are many families, single parents with children, pregnant women, elderly and disabled people. Some families due to lack of financial resources have been living at the railway station. Every day from several dozen to several hundred of them attempt to apply for asylum at the Belarusian-Polish border crossing in Brest-Terespol. Polish Border Guard officers accept applications from just several  families each day, forcing the rest to return to Belarus. Such an arbitrary selection is is against the norms of international and national law. 

Every day for the past several months from several dozen to several hundred of foreigners, mostly Chechens, attempt entering Poland at the Brest-Terespol Belarusian-Polish border crossing in order to seek international protection. The Border Guards’ duty (according to the EU Procedural Directive and Polish law on international protection) is to accept an asylum application from every person seeking asylum and direct every applicant to a residence centre for foreigners, where they will stay until their application has been processed by the relevant authority. Each day Border Guard officers accept applications from just several families. The rest are sent back to Belarus on formal grounds of (lack of Polish visa), while their declarations regarding seeking asylum are being ignored. By notoriously refusing the access to asylum application procedure to a large share of these foreigners, the representatives of the Polish Border Guard violate the rights of these people, many of whom having experienced torture, sexual assault, kidnappings and murders of members of their family. Arbitrary selection of people who are or are not granted the possibility to apply for asylum is against national and international legislation.

From several hundred up to two thousand of such foreigners have been staying in Brest in Belarus for the past several months. There are many families, single parents with children, pregnant women, elderly and disabled people, who have been trying to file an application for asylum in Poland without any success. Some families have been camping at the railway station in Brest for several months due to lack of resources as well as the dangers facing them on return to Chechnya. Many of the foreigners staying in Brest have attempted to cross the Polish border for several dozen times.

Moreover, as follows from reports by Polish and Belarusian human rights organizations, including Belarusian Human Constanta, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Association for Legal Intervention, Ombudsman, as well as media reports, a number of irregularities and abuses of the foreigners’ rights are taking place. They include the circumstances of the first interview by border guards of persons attempting to cross the border, such as lack of confidentiality, very short duration of the interview, making it close to impossible to well justify one’s reasons to claim asylum. Some foreigners have also reported being threatened, humiliated and ridiculed by the border guards..

The Polish Minister of the Interior and Administration, Mariusz Baszczak, has declared that Poland will not accept refugees from Chechenya anymore, because there is no more war there. However,even though the second war in the Chechen Republic has stopped, Chechens still have all too many reasons to seek asylum in other countries. Ramzan Kadyrow rules the Chechen Republic single-handedly, firmly controlling all levels of government and public administration and even has his own army, out of control of the Kremlin. Kidnappings, murders, imprisonment without trial, rapes, and other forms of persecution take place on a regular basis, as confirmed by both Chechen asylum seekers as well as international organisations. Persons facing persecution do not have a chance of protection in their own country, as well as in Belarus, which cooperates with Russian Federation very closely. Suffice it to say that there is not a single person granted a refugee status from RF in Belarus. Some of these people attempt to secure international protection in Poland.

Numerous intervention regarding this situation at the Polish-Belarusian border on the part of human rights defenders, journalists and ordinary citizens so far have been rather fruitless. The Chief of the Border Guard station in Terespol assures that everything is according to the law, however, many facts speak against his claims. Every person declaring the wish to claim asylum should be granted a possibility to submit an asylum application and enter the asylum procedure. Border guards are not entitled to make the decision who is and who is not eligible to claim asylum.

We are calling upon the Polish Border Guard to ensure the possibility to submit asylum application and enter the territory of Poland to all persons claiming they are in the need of international protection according to the existing legislation. We are calling upon the Ministry of the Interior and Administration to ensure that the institution under its direct supervision functions according to the norms of national and international law.

This petition is supported by:
Human Constanta (Belarus)
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
Association for Legal Intervention (Poland)
Ocalenie Foundation (Poland)
Institute of Public Affairs Foundation (Poland)

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