GENEVA, October 22. /TASS/. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has called for an urgent solution to "the stalemate" in the situation with the refugees and migrants stranded at the border between Belarus and the EU member states — Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the UNHCR press release published on Friday said, recalling that those people were in dire conditions "for weeks" and eight of them are already reported dead.
"UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing for urgent action to save lives and prevent further suffering at the border areas between Belarus and the European Union (Latvia, Lithuania, Poland)," the UNHCR said in the press release.
"This is now the eighth death to be reported in this border region, where several groups of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants have been stranded for weeks in increasingly dire conditions. UNHCR has warned that the situation will further and rapidly deteriorate as winter approaches, putting lives in danger," the statement says.
UNHCR’s Regional Director for Europe Pascale Moreau, said that "it is unacceptable that people have died." He added that refugees, asylum seekers and migrants "are held hostage by a political stalemate which needs to be solved now."
The UNHCR headquarters in Geneva said that among those stranded at the border in dire conditions were 32 Afghan women, men and children, who arrived at the border area in mid-August, but "are unable to access asylum and any form of assistance on either side."
Sixteen Afghans from that group attempted to cross into Poland this week, but were pushed back to Belarus and denied the opportunity to apply for asylum. UNHCR representatives have not been yet granted access to meet with the group from the Polish side. The UN Refugee Agency believes that those people should be given a chance to seek asylum either in Belarus or in Poland, but "their asylum request has been ignored by both sides."
"We urge Belarus and Poland, as signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention, to abide by their international legal obligations and provide access to asylum for those seeking it at their borders. Pushbacks, that deny access to territory and asylum, violate human rights in breach of international law," Moreau said.
On Wednesday, the Belarusian State Border Committee said that Afghan refugees, who had been stranded at the Belarusian-Polish border for more than two months, were beaten and apprehended by Polish law enforcers while attempting to cross into Poland. Since the beginning of 2021, over 21,000 migrants have tried to cross the Belarusian-Polish border. Warsaw declared a state of emergency in the areas bordering Belarus.