The European Commission and Polish government must abide by the Geneva Refugee Convention and fundamental rights in their response to the situation at the Poland/Belarus border.

With night-time temperatures falling below zero in the forests between the two countries, thousands of vulnerable Iraqi, Syrian and Afghan families are at high risk of death. 18 people have already died, and if no immediate and unhindered access to people in need is granted, more deaths will follow.

The EU reaction so far has solely focused on preventing people from reaching the EU, considering funding border walls and enabling Poland to carry out pushbacks in violation of EU and international law. We are appalled by these violent pushbacks and the many testimonies of beatings and electrocution.

We are facing both a humanitarian and human rights crisis that cannot be seen solely as the responsibility of Belarus. There can be no justification for the current violations of EU laws on asylum, including the denial of access to asylum procedures. Our group rejects any instrumentalisation of people seeking protection and calls on all member states and the EU to refrain from this approach. The Left strongly condemns “war” rhetoric, whereby officials and policymakers at the EU and national levels have been referring to migrants as ‘weapons’ and hybrid threats. Currently, almost 20,000 Polish border police, flanked by military support, are deployed at the border as if Europe was at war with the few women, men and children seeking safety. This is about human beings in need. Providing immediate assistance to them must be the EU’s top priority.

We are calling on Belarus and Poland to cease actions that endanger people seeking international protection and call on the Commission to launch infringement proceedings against Poland and other member states carrying out pushbacks in violation of EU and international law. Our MEPs also call on the Commission to suspend border surveillance funding to member states carrying out pushbacks. It is unacceptable that EU funding is used to perpetrate torture and inhumane and degrading treatment.

On the contrary, the Commission should ensure solidarity with Poland and other member states at the external borders to ensure that people seeking protection are received in adequate conditions and relocated among all EU countries. Access to the border area for journalists and NGOs must also be guaranteed by Poland and Belarus.

In addition, this crisis once again highlights the EU’s unacceptable migration policy. We believe the continuous outsourcing of border control to third countries will only lead to more death and violations of human rights, and empower autocratic regimes. This policy violates international law and it must end.

The Left in the European Parliament calls for a peace-oriented foreign policy, addressing the causes that force people to flee, the provision of legal and safe pathways to Europe, a common asylum system based on solidarity, and compliance with the current EU asylum acquis.

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