Polish project to help migrants crossing Belarus border

Asia's Tech News Daily

© Getty Images Iraqi migrants hiding in a Polish forest near the Polish town of Chelm shortly after crossing the border from Belarus.

A Polish lawyer has launched a plan to provide support for migrants crossing into the country illegally via Belarus.

Kamil Syller is appealing to locals living near the border to switch on a green light to signal that they can provide migrants with food and shelter.

The project’s Facebook page posts in English, Polish and Arabic to raise awareness of the signal with migrants.

Poland has recently seen a huge increase in the number of people trying to cross the border from Belarus.

Mr Syller, who lives around 5 kilometres away from the border, said that many migrants have been putting themselves in danger by remaining in forests during the freezing weather rather than asking locals for help – because they are terrified of being sent back to Belarus.

At least six migrants have died near the border in recent weeks, likely from hypothermia, as temperatures in the region have dropped below freezing.

Speaking to the Polish newspaper, Wyborcza, Mr Syller said that migrants calling at these homes could count on receiving a meal, a change of clothes, first aid and the chance to charge their phones. He also criticised the Polish government’s stance on the issue.

“The authorities of our country, enacting draconian regulations that will soon come into force and will legalise push-back, have calculated the death of refugees in them,” he said. “We, the inhabitants of the borderland, who see human drama and suffering, do not have to calculate.

“We must remain human.”

But he accepted that a house displaying a green light may attract the attention of authorities and inadvertently lead border-crossers into the hands of guards.

“It’s hard. That’s right, there may be people who mark their home with a green light as a joke or who will lure refugees and immediately hand them over to the services, to be taken to the forest on the Polish-Belarusian border. It is a matter of their conscience,” he said.

Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have all reported sharp increases in migrants from countries including Afghanistan and Iraq crossing via Belarus.

Poland and the EU accuse Belarus of weaponising migrants by encouraging them to go to Belarus for onward passage into the EU.

They claim that this is an act of retaliation by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko in response to increased sanctions by the EU after a Ryanair jet was hijacked by his regime in May.

This week the Polish parliament approved a new bill allowing border guards to immediately expel migrants who cross the border illegally. Guards will also be given power to refuse applications for international asylum, without examination.

But human rights groups say Poland is required under international law to assist anyone seeking asylum, even if they have arrived in the country illegally.

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