Can asylum seekers at the Polish-Belarusian border be deported?
"Refugees should go back to their own countries” This is the kind of narrative that is often heard amongst the general public, however, there is a very important law called ‘the principle of non-refoulement’. In article 33 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, this Non-refoulement principle refers to the prohibition to return asylum seekers to a country where there are reasonable grounds to believe that they would face “#torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and other irreparable harm”.
People at the Polish -Belarusian borders are mainly from #Afghanistan, #Syria, #Kurdistan, and many other #African countries in domestic conflict. With the #Taliban taking over Afghanistan, with militias in Kurdistan, with Syria still being bombed, can one presumably imagine that these countries are safe to return to?
This principle is connected with the issue of #illegalpushbacks of asylum seekers who want to claim safety in the country engaging in pushbacks. Also, article 31 of the 1951 Refugees Convention states that asylum seekers “shall not be penalized solely by reason of unlawful entry or because, being in need of refuge and protection, they remain illegally in a country”. So the rhetoric that people are not coming through “proper channels’’ is inaccurate because, anyone can enter anyway, as long as they have a need for safety and protection, as do people at the current border.
The Polish Border Guards are expected to operate under the legal framework of the #EU. Firstly, the principle of non-refoulement is being breached as asylum seekers are being pushed back to Belarus, where tortures and illegal detentions have been reported. Secondly, it is the duty of the border authorities not to hinder asylum seekers’ right to claim asylum and to further examine on an individual basis whether such status can in fact be granted. The #Polish government has recently passed a new law allowing the immediate expulsion of undocumented people crossing the border, which constitutes a breach of international law and is likely to amplify the violation of humanrights currently happening.