The UN refugee agency is urging Poland to take in a group of migrants believed to be from Iraq and Afghanistan who have been stranded on the border with Belarus for more than two weeks.
“While we acknowledge the challenges posed by recent arrivals to Poland, we call on the Polish authorities to provide access to territory, immediate medical assistance, legal advice, and psychosocial support to these people,” Christine Goyer, the UNHCR’s representative in Poland, said on Tuesday.
Thousands of migrants have crossed the border from Belarus into the eastern EU states of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in recent months.
The EU says Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is waging “hybrid warfare” with migrants to exert pressure on the bloc.
Poland has said it will not allow the migrants in, with Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki saying that this would be giving in to “blackmail” from Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko.
Morawiecki insisted on Tuesday that the migrants “are on the Belarusian side of the border. Belarus is responsible for these groups.”
“If someone on the Belarusian side wants to apply for refugee status, please do so in Minsk,” he added.
Approximately 30 migrants have set up a makeshift encampment just inside Belarus near the Polish village of Usnarz Gorny between lines of Belarusian and Polish military personnel.
On Monday, Polish Defence Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said that a new 2.5-metre-high (8.2-foot) solid fence would be built along the border with Belarus.
“States have the legitimate right to manage their borders in accordance with international law. However, they must also respect human rights, including the right to seek asylum,” the UNHCR said in a statement.
Poland’s Foreign Ministry said it fully applies provisions of national and international law with respect to asylum.
“Poland fully respects the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and complies with its provisions in the current situation. At the same time, we expect that Belarus, as a party to the Convention, to fulfill its obligations and will provide appropriate care to people in its territory,” a ministry statement said.