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The following statement originally appeared on the website of the Council of Europe.
The dire humanitarian situation of a group of people stuck for many days at the Polish-Belarussian border is alarming.
I understand that this situation is the result of attempts by Belarus to encourage people to cross borders, leaving them in a vulnerable position and creating challenges for the receiving state, and I firmly condemn such actions. But Poland must not allow innocent, vulnerable people to be victims of such conduct. Pushing people back, denying them access to fair asylum procedures, or simply leaving them stuck in a humanitarian emergency cannot be the answer of a Council of Europe member state bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, the Refugee Convention, and other international human rights instruments.
As also pointed out by UNHCR, immediate principled action is now needed to find a solution to protect the human rights of the people stranded at the border and to ensure that their humanitarian needs are met. Organizations providing humanitarian or legal assistance should be allowed access and people stuck at the border should be enabled to apply for international protection to which they may be entitled.
Poland is not alone in facing these difficult issues. Yesterday, I published my letter to the Lithuanian government setting out my concerns in detail. Many of these concerns also apply to the situation faced by Poland and other Council of Europe member states.
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