There is an urgent need to ensure access to humanitarian aid for transit refugees in border areas

Human Constanta
25 October 2023

On October 24, the Belarusian State Border Committee reported the detection of the bodies of two transit refugees on the territory of Belarus near the border with Latvia. Belarusian authorities did not provide any information about the cause of death or the nationality of the deceased. 

This incident marked the fourth in the past month and added to the alarming statistics: according to the Belarusian State Border Committee, at least 23 people have died on the border between Belarus and the European Union (EU) since the beginning of this year. However, information about the reasons and circumstances of the deaths remains undisclosed.

Since the beginning of the humanitarian crisis in Belarus and on the EU borders in the summer 2021, Belarusian authorities have regularly reported finding the bodies of deceased transit refugees and have criticised European authorities. Nevertheless, it is unknown what the Belarusian government is doing to prevent such tragedies at the border and in the border zone or if it responds promptly to reports on transit refugees going missing in the border forests.

We anticipate that, with the approach of winter followed by a sharp drop in temperatures and deteriorating weather conditions, the number of deaths at the border will only increase. We urge humanitarian organisations operating in Belarus to establish emergency humanitarian and first medical aid points near the Belarusian-EU border and provide urgent medical assistance, food, and shelter to transit refugees in extreme conditions. The information about the locations of these points should be publicly accessible to ensure the swift provision of aid to transit refugees in distress in the border zone.

We also call on other human rights organisations and the international community to show solidarity and contribute to efforts to save the lives of transit refugees in critical situations on the Belarusian border. Preserving human lives should be the highest priority for all concerned parties. 

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