Statement for International migrants day

Human Constanta
18 December 2023

A woman of “non-Slavic appearance” with three children aged 7 to 15 was found dead on September 19, 2021 in Belarus, in Hrodna district, near the village of Lesnoye, on the border with Poland.

A man of “Afro-Asian appearance” aged about 30 years old was found dead on November 27, 2021 in Belarus, at the border post “Vidzy” of Polotsk border guard unit, on the border with Lithuania. 

A 32-year-old man of “non-Baltic appearance” was found dead on August 21, 2022 in Lithuania, Vilnius district, near the village of Kuniškės, on the border with Belarus. 

An Afghan man, 27, died of hypothermia on December 20, 2022, in Latvia at a hospital in the town of Rezekne after crossing the border.  

A presumed Iraqi citizen, born in 2001, was found dead on February 4, 2023 in Belarus at the border with Poland.

Two men, presumably citizens of Iran, found dead, with an alive women and two children next to him, on October 27, 2023 in Belarus, in Verkhnedvinsk district on the border with Latvia.

A man of Afghani origin found in an emaciated state before passing away  in front of border guards, next to two more alive citizens of Afghanistan. This happened on November 28, 2023 in Belarus, in Kamenets district on the border with Poland.

Today, on International Migrants Day, we speak on behalf of the nameless victims of the humanitarian crisis on the border between Belarus and the European Union. Since summer 2021, at least 94 people have lost their lives in and within the border areas of Belarus, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Following the 2020 presidential election in Belarus and the brutal suppression of peaceful protests caused by the falsification of the results, the European Union (EU) stopped funding and implementing cooperation projects with Belarus and imposed several packages of sanctions on the Lukashenka regime. In early 2021, Belarus saw a significant increase in the number of visitors on tourist visas from the Middle East, mainly from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Yemen. Since August 2021, thousands of third-country nationals have tried to enter Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia across the border with Belarus to seek international protection in the EU countries. Many arriving migrants arrived together with their families and children. In 2023, most of the migrants arrived in Belarus via Russia due to the lack of border controls between these countries. Poland remains the main destination, but the number of attempts to reach Latvia has also been considerably high in the autumn 2023, before dropping again in November and December.

On the International Migrants Day, we remind the authorities of Belarus and the involved EU countries that:

  • Migrants have the right to live;
  • Migrants have the right to safely seek international protection (i.e. have safe passage to seek safety) and have their requests for asylum accepted even if crossing the borders in an irregular manner. Pushbacks are not acceptable and should be stopped at the Belarus-EU border.    
  • States are obliged to collect, examine and preserve the bodies of deceased  and do whatever it takes to identify them. It is unclear whether all people who died in the border area have been found, identified and properly buried.
  • States are obliged to make every effort to find and notify the families of the dead and missing. However, there is no reliable information on whether the relatives of the deceased are being sought out and notified.
  • States must conduct effective investigations into the deaths of migrants to ensure justice, accountability, and reparations. The effectiveness of death investigations is especially questionable due to the discriminatory treatment of migrants;
  • States must cooperate with, not to obstruct or prosecute victims, families, family associations and civil society attempting to rescue and support migrants.  Many border areas are currently inaccessible to human rights defenders and journalists, and in 2024 there will be no organisations providing humanitarian assistance to irregular migrants in Belarus;

We want to emphasise that human rights of all people, including people on the move, must be respected.  Migrants’ rights to health and life, and their access to asylum procedure, should be observed regardless of their nationality and their manner of arrival.  States must ensure safe migration. National and international civil society organisations must monitor and support actions by states. But states have obligations even after the loss of life, regardless of nationality.

On behalf of the nameless victims of the humanitarian crisis

Human Constanta

Sienos Grupė

 Fundacja Ocalenie

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