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- It is an unprecedented action on the part of Lukashenko’s regime, a desperate act of a regime that, when put under pressure, uses immigrants to destabilize the European Union and especially its own immediate neighbors- said the Swedish-born European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.
- Lukashenko deceives people who are ready to pay EUR 10.000 – 20.000 for a one-way trip to Belarus. But we see that human traffickers adapt quickly. They are ready to transport people from Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia to other EU countries and the UK- stated the Social Democrat.
„Media must be allowed to report from the border zone"
When asked by "Wyborcza" about the restrictions imposed by the Polish government on media willing to cover the migration crisis on the ground, Ms Johansson emphasized that it is important to allow journalists who will reliably report on the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border to access the area.
- I told the Minister of Interior Kamiński that transparency is important. We cannot rely on the media coverage provided by the Belarusian regime. It is important to have European media outlets on the Polish side of the border. We want to be sure that we will not fall prey to rumors. I understand that there is a bill being debated in the Polish parliament and I hope that journalists will be allowed in - said Ylva Johansson.
The EU Commissioner added that representatives of humanitarian aid organizations must also be given access to the border zone.
"Asylum applications should be reviewed individually"
The European Union wants to adopt a special piece of legislation to deal with the crisis at the border. The EU Commission will soon present its proposal.
What is certain is that the EU will definitely not legalize the so-called "pushbacks".
- There may be people at the border who should be granted international protection. The assessment of their cases should be individual, not en masse- Ms Johansson said.
All applications could be processed faster than usual. The Commissioner predicts that most applications from Iraq, however, will not be accepted because the acceptance rate in this case is quite low. Expulsion is possible, however, only after the application has been recognized.
Ms Johansson argued against calling the situation a "migration crisis" because the numbers do not justify it. During the refugee crisis five years ago, it was hundreds of thousands of refugees who attempted to cross the EU borders. Currently, the numbers go into thousands.
- The number of migrants attempting to cross the border is not big. This is not a migration crisis, but an instrumentalization, a state-coordinated human trafficking system- said the EU Commissioner.
„Poland’s government should cooperate with Frontex"
When asked to assess the activities of countries bordering Belarus, Johansson praised Lithuania for its cooperative stance towards the EU.
- The whole thing started in Lithuania. I was there before, we had good cooperation in terms of Frontex, Europol, and financing. They benefited from the European Civil Protection Mechanism - she recalled.
When asked about Poland, she only said that EU agencies should also have access to the border.
- This is the external border of Europe. The presence of EU agencies will be helpful. Poland should invite Frontex. It has a lot of its own border personnel, but it is worth showing that it is a European issue. Symbolism is also important. It is ultimately up to the Polish government, but it would be a good decision – Ms Johansson pointed out.
Poland should also become more involved in cooperating with police forces from other EU member states.
- We can do more in this area. I had a meeting with France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands about trafficking people into the UK. We have an excellent European center at Europol for prosecuting acts of human trafficking- she said.
Cooperation with other countries is also important. - You have to reach out to third countries. They do not want to be part of Lukashenko's ambush - Commissioner Johansson said.
The EU will not pay for a border wall
The European Union wants to provide Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania with EUR 200 million but refuses to finance a border wall.
- There will be no funding for walls and barbed wire, only for measures such as cameras and drones – the Commissioner emphasized.
Journalists also asked about Frontex breaking the law.
- It is important that all countries respect fundamental rights, especially when it comes to EU agencies. Frontex has hired a human rights officer and 20 inspectors, with another 20 being recruited. All recommendations made by the European Parliament and the European Court of Auditors are being implemented and, if necessary, investigations will be carried out- Ms Johansson concluded.
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