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Unfolding Humanitarian Emergency in Belarus and at the Channel- Opinion Piece

Updated: Jan 26, 2022

Thousands of forced migrants and refugees were hoping to cross the Belarusian-Poland border into the European Union (EU) and are currently stuck in a limbo. The Polish government not only refused to provide asylum to them but declared a state of emergency in its border areas. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, Polish authorities have constructed razor wire fences and people interviewed by the organisation testified to violence and extortion by Belarusian border guards.

Poland denies journalists access to border with Belarus as thousands of people remain stranded amid a geopolitical row. Source: Al Jazeera and Reuters

A recent report by Human Rights Watch wrote that the majority of the people subjected to mass evictions in Calais and Grande-Synthe did not know the legal basis for their evictions, and most did not receive temporary accommodation. We are witnessing an unfolding humanitarian emergency and it is imperative for all involved states to respect their commitment to human rights.

One of two dinghies that were handed over to the UK Border Force from supervision by the French authorities in the middle of the Channel in May,2020. Source: The Times and Steve Finn

Pauline has recently completed a Masters degree in Migration Studies from the University of Sussex and currently trains to be a primary school teacher. She has expressed her feelings and opinion towards the current situation at the Channel and in Belarus.

People seeking safety are freezing to death at the Belarusian-Polish border, drowning in the Mediterranean Sea and the Channel. And how do our governments respond? By sending border forces, throwing tear-gas, building higher fences, and increasing cost control.

The media and the public show themselves shocked and express their sympathy, but few critical voices are heard, and these ‘solutions’ accepted as if they were legitimate and unavoidable. If this is not a proof of our, of Europe’s, moral decay, then I don’t know what is. Where is the outcry? Why can’t I hear journalists asking uncomfortable questions like: why are some people so desperate that they risk their and their children’s lives trying to leave their homes? What happened to the fundamental right to asylum, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights? What about the reasons behind why people are having to flee their homes, the destabilisation and conflicts caused by our countries? What about carrier sanctions introduced by Europe that mean people must walk, take dangerous boats and rely on smugglers instead of travelling by plane? Why is no one advocating for humanitarian visas to give people solely the chance to claim asylum? I don’t even want to start with push backs and the safe third country practice, ridiculing the right to asylum and the despair of these people. Not to mention the immoral deals made with dictators to keep migrants and asylum seekers off Europe’s shores. I’m past the point where I expect our politicians to suggest real solutions and adhere to human rights, but I expect the media, the fourth column of democracy, to keep asking, to keep pointing at the holes in politicians’ stories and their hypocrisy.

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