August 2021. #Usnarz Górny, a village in the north-eastern Podlasie region of #Poland. A group of 50 #asylumseekers was stopped by the Polish Border Guards. Among them were primarily women and children, mainly from #Iraq and #Afghanistan. They were transported to Usnarz and forced to cross the #border back into #Belarus. However, Belarusian authorities order them to go back to Poland. This was when the first #pushbacks started. Feeling helpless, they sat down between the two groups of armed officials and didn’t move anymore; they couldn’t move anymore.
The humanitarian crisis at the border has been ongoing for five months. Where are the people from #Usnarz now?
After a state of emergency was introduced in the region of #Usnarz in September, the only way of communicating that was left was via hidden phones. A few weeks later, the group entered Poland despite the fence. Unfortunately, all were treated the same way: forced into trucks, phones destroyed, split into smaller groups, and dumped in #Belarus. However, nobody from the group had a happy ending.
What happened in #Usnarz exposed the lies of the Polish authorities. First, they said, “they are not in #Poland” - satellite images showed otherwise. Second, they said, “They are not Afghans” – personal documents proved they were. Third, they said “people are coming and going” – while activists saw the same faces every day. Fourth, they said “there are no women and children” – denying the presence of Gul, Mariam, and Hagar.
For the first time, the racist discourse on refugees in Poland was challenged. #Usnarz showed real stories and names of those whose rights were denied. The rights of #asylumseekers and refugees and those of Polish citizens who were refused to help.
We can never forget how the Polish government reacted and kept on denying fundamental #humanrights to those in need. Only by remembering and keeping the discussion alive will there be any chance of change and improvements.