GENEVA, September 21. /TASS/. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration have urged an investigation into cases of refugee and migrant deaths near the border between Poland and Belarus, the institutions said in a joint statement on Tuesday, also calling for an immediate access to all those who were injured to provide medical and other help.
"UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and are deeply saddened by the deaths of four individuals near the border between Poland and Belarus," the document reads. The two organizations "express their condolences to the families of the deceased and are calling for an immediate investigation into this tragedy. The nationalities of the all the victims have yet to be confirmed but two Iraqi nationals reportedly died of hypothermia."
The UNHCR and IOM also called for "immediate access to those affected, in order to provide lifesaving medical help, food, water and shelter, especially in light of the approaching winter."
"In recent months, groups of asylum-seekers and migrants have been transiting through Belarus, to seek asylum in neighbouring EU Member States - Lithuania, Latvia and Poland," the two agencies pointed out, adding that they "have been following with growing concern, reports of pushbacks of people at these borders. Groups of people have become stranded for weeks, unable to access any form of assistance, asylum or basic services. Many were left in dire situations, exposed to the elements, suffering from hypothermia. Some were rescued from swamps."
"UNHCR and IOM have been engaging with relevant authorities to explore various options for the people who continue to be stranded at borders; from access to asylum, family reunification procedures, and voluntary return for those found not to be in need of international protection," the organizations said. "IOM and UNHCR reiterate that asylum-seekers and migrants should never be used by States to achieve political ends. The fundamental responsibility to protect vulnerable people should be shared among States in a spirit of solidarity. Political disagreement on responsibilities must never result in the loss of life, forfeiting States international obligations and commitments."
Situation on the border
On September 19, Polish border officers reported that they had discovered bodies of three dead migrants who tried to illegally cross the state border. One more migrant woman was discovered on the Belarusian side.