Winter and pushbacks in the Polish-Belarusian border
The Polish #borderguards moved 9 frozen and hungry #asylumseekers from #Poland to the cold Belarusian forest the night before #christmaseve when it was -10 degrees C. #December marks the 10th month since the Polish-Belarusian border humanitarian crisis started. With the increasingly adverse weather conditions, deportations were happening consistently, and the violence perpetrated by the border guards was becoming the norm.
Despite the terrible weather and health conditions (exhaustion and hypothermia), the intervention of residents, and the humanitarian support provided for three consecutive days, the border guards moved the asylum seekers to #Belarus. The deportation took place at midnight, a few hours before Christmas Eve.
One of the Grupa Granica volunteers recalled an experience by saying:
"Imagine that after a few hours of wandering across the forest, you run into a man. He's trembling. He's lying curled up like a baby, with his hands tucked under his armpits. He's wearing wet slippers. It's cold. There is plenty of border guards around. You know it will get colder. When deportation to Belarus is mentioned, the people you just met froze in terror, folded his hands, and said to you: "No Belarus, no Belarus." This one sentence resonated with everyone. There should be special rescue units to protect human rights; not us mere volunteers who would understandably be perceived as a threat by refugees."
On Christmas Eve, the inhabitants of #Białowieża found out that the groups of people they had met a few days earlier had been pushed back to the border zone. They said, "We know that in such conditions, moving along is the only way to survive. These people walked about 15 km through very demanding parts of the forest. They were given medical help, but their physical condition was bad. Even on the day that is supposed to bring hope to the world, Christmas eve, here – in Poland – there was no room for the slightest sign of hope for the respect of human rights. Do the Border Guards really need to engage in pushbacks of refugees towards the hands of #Lukashenka's regime? #Pushbacks endanger the life of refugees. We know it so do the Border Guards.