Polish-Belarusian Border Crisis


Our Letter

Note: The original print letter was mailed on May 20, 2022, followed by distribution of a digital copy via
email on May 21, 2022.

Andrzej Emeryk Mańkowski, Consul General
Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Vancouver
1600-1177 West Hastings Street
Vancouver, BC V6E 2K3

May 20, 2022

RE: Human Rights of Migrants, Refugees, and Asylum-seekers at the Polish-Belarusian Border
Dear Consul General Andrzej Mańkowski,
Following Russia’s militarized and violent invasion of sovereign and democratic Ukraine, millions of
Ukrainian residents have been forced to flee their homes to protect themselves and their families.
Poland’s response has been largely grounded in humanity and empathy, and is a source of
international pride in this dark and difficult time. We commend the Polish government for its
humanitarian response and for prioritizing the processing and intake of refugees fleeing Ukraine as
quickly as possible through to safety.

The situation on the Ukrainian border has shown that Poland is able and willing to exercise empathy
and compassion on a state level. We ask that Poland extends similar compassion and urgent action
to all migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers looking for safety at its borders. Since the crisis began
in 2021, thousands of people from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa have been seeking refuge at the
Polish-Belarusian border. These migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers are unwittingly used as
instruments in Belarus’s hybrid political attack on Poland in response to the European Union’s
sanctions on Belarus following the fraudulent Belarusian election in 2020. [1]

Last year, the Polish Border Guard claimed to have detained over 2,740 migrants, refugees and
asylum-seekers, and prevented over 33,770 attempts to cross the Polish-Belrusian border. [2] In

2022, the Polish Border Guard has already apprehended over 1,180 migrants, refugees, and asylum-
seekers, and continues to apprehend more weekly. [3] While significant numbers of migrants,

refugees and asylum-seekers have been repatriated or deported, many remain trapped in the
surrounding forested border region under severe, life-threatening conditions, with limited to no
access to basic human needs, such as water, food, shelter, warm clothing and healthcare. [4] Reports

of violent and inhumane treatment of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers along the Polish-
Belarusian border cite the Polish Border Guard using excessive force, including pushbacks, water

cannons and tear gas, to deter border crossing attempts. [5] Amnesty International reports that
many of the thousands of detainees were subjected to verbally abusive comments, racists
statements, punishment, and other dehumanizing treatment and abuses, including “strip searches in
unsanitary, overcrowded facilities, and in some cases even forcible sedation and tasering”
perpetrated by Polish authorities. [11]

The Polish non-governmental organization Grupa Granica stated in February that it continued to
locate between 40 and 80 migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers each week in Białowieża Forest.
[6] Activists reported that at least 24 people have lost their lives while trying to find refuge. [2]
Exact numbers of casualties are difficult to determine, as Poland has limited the access of human
rights groups, humanitarian organizations, lawyers, and media to the area. [7] Four volunteer Polish
activists were arrested in late March. Grupa Granica stated that these detained activists were
providing humanitarian aid to a family with seven children that had been trapped at the border for
three months before entering Poland. [2] The Polish Government is currently building a wall along
the Belarusian border to further deter the migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers from entering
Poland. [8] Meanwhile, the crisis is likely to worsen as Belarusian authorities have recently evicted
hundreds of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers from the village Bruzgi, stranding hundreds of
more people in the forested border regions. [11]

We urge the Polish government to comply with its obligations under international law and human
rights treaties, including the United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1951
UN Refugee Convention, and the UN 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees ratified by
Poland in 1991, as well as customary international laws, conventions and standards protecting migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers from race-, ethnicity- and gender-based discrimination as
well as cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment.

We implore the Polish government to put in place policies and supporting processes to instruct and
enable all agencies involved in the processing of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers at the
Polish-Belarusian border to ensure:

Humanitarian treatment: Put humanity first. People experiencing life-threatening situations
along the Polish-Belarusian border should be provided with humanitarian support measures
without discrimination.

  1. Humanitarian treatment: Put humanity first. People experiencing life-threatening situations along the Polish-Belarusian border should be provided with humanitarian support measures without discrimination.

  2. Humanitarian corridors and supports upon entry: Provide and support full access for designated NGOs offering humanitarian aid, essential healthcare, legal consultation, translation services, and other relevant supports, according to each individuals’ specific needs, to support the human dignity and wellbeing of migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers along the Polish-Belarusian border.

  3. Simplified procedures: Simplify entry requirements and accelerate processes wherever possible in order to urgently bring migrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers to safety. [9]

We echo the reminder of the Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Liz
Throssell, that detention of civilians should be an exceptional measure of last resort, and should only
be used for a limited period of time, if at all. We reiterate Amnesty International’s plea to keep
families together, both at the border and by assisting individuals in uniting with loved ones once they
have crossed the Polish-Belarusian border into safety. [10]

Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine has reminded us that we must stand by one another in times of
conflict in order to preserve lives and peace to our utmost powers. Poland’s response to Ukraine’s
plight has shown that Polish citizens value freedom, peace, stability, and humanity. The response has
also shown that as human beings, we are all connected and we must strive to understand and help
one another. In the face of Belarusian antagonism and hostility towards migrants, refugees, and
asylum-seekers, Poland must prioritize a humanitarian and empathetic response. We implore the
democratically elected Polish government to use the power vested upon it by its citizens to act in the
best interest of the human rights of our fellow global citizens, regardless of their place of origin.


Cielesne is an inclusive and safe space based in Canada for spreading awareness about important
matters inside and outside of Poland. Visit https://www.instagram.com/cielesne/ to learn more.

Polonia Inclusive
Polonia Inclusive is a community supporting culture, diversity and advocacy in Canada, Poland and
around the world. Visit https://poloniainclusive.ca/ to learn more.

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