The IRC is gravely alarmed that several people have lost their lives at the Belarus-Poland border, where around 2,000 refugees and other migrants remain stranded as governments refuse responsibility to provide protection.

Imogen Sudbery, Director of Policy & Advocacy for the IRC Europe, said:

“The humanitarian situation evolving at the border of Belarus and Poland is extremely alarming; refugees and migrants are living outside in the cold without access to food or water, and are at an increasing risk of violence and exploitation. It is heartbreaking that lives have been lost as a result of the appalling conditions and treatment they have had to endure.

“It is deeply concerning that pushbacks and other human rights violations at Europe’s borders are becoming increasingly common. There are mounting reports of abuses across the EU, from Greece to Croatia, to the Mediterranean Sea, and the situation at the Belarusian border is a devastating addition to the litany of tragedies that should be prevented from happening at Europe’s door.

“Seeking asylum is a human right regardless of how a person enters a country, and those who are stranded at the border have been caught in a political crossfire. Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have a duty to ensure their safety and human rights, as well as access to asylum procedures alongside urgent access to food shelter and legal assistance. Humanitarian aid has also been cut off, and it is vital that aid agencies are given access to the areas where people are living.

“Meanwhile, the European Commission must rally each EU Member State to firmly defend access to these rights, particularly in response to other states’ attempts to instrumentalise human beings for political leverage. It is clear that illegal pushbacks are happening at Europe’s borders, and any violations must be condemned. How the EU responds to these human rights violations will be a test of its commitment to the rule of law and its own fundamental values.”