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Poland: Border security strengthened as migrants head from Belarus. An appeal to domestic and international institutions published by NGO “Border Group”

Tensions escalate on the border

Approximately 4,000 migrants gathered at the Belarusian-Polish border on Monday 8th November in an attempt to enter Poland from Belarus. While Polish authorities accused Minsk of preparing a provocation, according to various media sources the demonstration was an initiative of migrants themselves as they wanted to draw the world's attention to the humanitarian crisis.

Groups of migrants that had managed to get out of the "death zone" at the Polish-Belarusian border began to gather on Sunday, 7th November, five kilometres from the border at the height of Grodno. On Monday morning, migrants from Minsk, Grodno and Brest joined the previous groups and they all started walking along the side of the motorway towards the border with Poland. 
Poland has deployed additional border guards, police and the military at its Belarus border. According to the Defence Ministry, the country now has 12,000 soldiers in the region, up from 10,000 deployed ahead of the latest developments. Members of Poland's army reserve in the border regions were also put on full alert.

An appeal to domestic and international institutions published by NGO “Border Group”

In response to the growing tensions on the Polish Eastern border, a consortium of NGOs called “Border Group” has issued an appeal to domestic and international institutions, but especially to the Polish government to create a humanitarian corridor, observe the basic principles of humanitarianism, allow for the on site presence of media, humanitarian organizations and medical staff. Due to the increasing risk of an escalation of violence at the border, NGOs call on international institutions and organizations to monitor the situation and put pressure on the Polish authorities to immediately provide humanitarian and medical aid. For as long as solutions based on creation of safe migration routes and systems of protection against smugglers are not introduced, people forced to migrate will be condemned to irregular measures. 

Dear Members of the Domestic and International Institutions
We are writing to share our concern about the communication we have been following on social media about the unusually big groups of migrants, which might be trying to cross the Polish-Belarusian border in the next hours or days. Some of this communication points to the rising level of desperation among migrants, resulting from no possible way out of the worsening border crisis, increased brutality of the Belarusian border guards, and the fact that the Polish authorities deny migrants their right to safe shelter. Some of the migrants have been already unsuccessfully trying to return to their country of origin for a long time, which is prevented by both Poland and Belarus.

Considering the events on the Polish-Belarusian border over the past few months, there is a high probability that the Belarusian authorities will seek to escalate violence, which might be met with a violent response from the Polish authorities. We are very concerned that this might result in the increased levels of already huge suffering among the most vulnerable people, including children, the elderly and the sick. Meanwhile, humanitarian and medical organizations have not yet been allowed to access the Polish-Belarusian border, and local hospitals have not received any additional support.

We call on your organizations to monitor the evolving situation, urgently send independent observers to the area concerned, and use all means necessary to exert pressure on the Polish government to immediately send the medical and humanitarian aid to the border in case of the of the escalation of violence.

Yours faithfully,
Members of Grupa Granica (Border Group)

UNHCR, Polish Commissioner for Human Rights, Polish Commissioner for Children Rights, European Commission Representation in Poland, Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), Frontex, Commissioner for Human Rights of Council of Europe