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Tear gas and water cannons will do nothing to solve the humanitarian crisis unfolding at EU’s borders


18 Nov 2021


Justice & Home Affairs

S&D MEPs call on the Commission and the Council to use every opportunity to remind Poland of its EU and international legal obligations to grant the right to asylum and the principle of non-refoulement. It is essential that Poland ensures transparency at its border region and allows access to civil society, international organisations and EU agencies. The S&D Group in the European Parliament has also condemned the Belarus authorities for pushing vulnerable migrants into a state of desperation and any use of violence by the Polish authorities, including the retaliatory use of tear gas and water cannons, against those stuck at the Poland-Belarus border.

With a number of tragic deaths already reported and worsening winter conditions approaching, the emergency unfolding at the border also deserves a much more humanitarian response from the Polish government, which must include asking for support from the EU and the UN. Journalists and aid workers must also be immediately granted access to the border area.

Simona Bonafè, vice-president of the S&D Group, said:

“Sanctions against Belarus, if strong enough, are the right approach in hitting Lukashenko’s regime where it hurts to put an end to the state sponsored migrant-smuggling that we have seen in recent weeks. However, sanctions will not save any of the lives currently at risk at the border. UN and EU support, as well as access to EU asylum procedures, will help stop the situation deteriorating further. With freezing conditions and no access to food, proper sanitation or healthcare, people on the border of Poland and Belarus are facing a preventable humanitarian nightmare. There have already been too many tragic deaths and these prove an urgent need to respect human safety and dignity at the borders. But Poland’s borders are EU borders and we all shoulder a responsibility to guarantee the right to international protection and stop violations of human rights through pushbacks.”

Birgit Sippel, S&D spokesperson on justice and home affairs, said:

“With people’s lives at stake, the Polish authorities must respect its legal obligations and grant access to asylum procedures for those seeking international protection. Any use of violence is unacceptable, including the use of tear gas and water cannons against vulnerable migrants and asylum-seekers, many of whom are women and children. The Council and the Commission should be demanding that Poland fully respects EU law and grants EU agencies access to the border area so that all the necessary support can be given. Illegal expulsions merit a strong response from the EU, and last month our group already called on the Commission to prepare infringement proceedings. Portraying the humanitarian emergency unfolding at the border as an uncontrollable attack on Europe’s borders is about promoting fearmongering and will play into the hands of authoritarian bullies like Lukashenko. This is not our Europe and does not represent our values. EU funds must never be used to violate EU laws and values, which is why we need increased scrutiny and conditions over the pay-out of EU funds related to border and migration management.”


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