WARSAW, Poland (AP) – On Tuesday, two United Nations agencies applied for access to asylum seekers who were stranded on the Belarusian border with Poland and Lithuania after four migrants were found dead in the region.
The International Organization for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency called on the governments involved to orient themselves above all to human rights and international law when trying to prevent people from illegally entering the European Union from Belarus.
In a joint statement, the UN authorities called for an investigation into the four deaths and called for “immediate access” to other refugees and migrants “in order to provide life-saving medical aid, food, water and shelter, especially in view of the approaching winter.”
The governments of Poland and Lithuania introduced states of emergency, denying entry to certain border areas to anyone but border guards and security services. They also build barbed wire fences along their border with Belarus.
According to the Polish authorities, three people who were found dead near the Belarusian border on Sunday died of hypothermia and exhaustion. Polish border guards also saw the body of a woman near the border on the Belarusian side.
The UN authorities, based in Geneva, said the nationality of the deceased has not been confirmed, but two of the victims who died of hypothermia are believed to be from Iraq.
The agencies said they were “following reports of pushbacks from people at these borders with growing concern. Groups of people have been stranded for weeks and have no access to any form of help, asylum or basic services. Many were left in dire situations, exposed to the elements, and suffered from hypothermia. Some were rescued from swamps. “
Refusal of asylum seekers to seek protection if this is seen as a violation of international law.
The EU members Poland and Lithuania have taken in an unusually large number of migrants and refugees from Belarus in recent months. They claim that the government of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is trying to destabilize the 27-nation EU.
The border pressure began after western countries imposed sanctions on Lukashenko’s government for the country’s controversial presidential election in August 2020 and crackdown on the opposition.
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