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UN ready to help in solving problems of migrants on Polish-Belarusian border

During a briefing in Geneva on Tuesady, Mantoo said the UN agency was "very alarmed" by the news

GENEVA, November 10. /TASS/. The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is ready to assist in solving the humanitarian issues of migrants on the Polish-Belarusian border, spokesperson Shabia Mantoo told reporters in Geneva on Tuesday.

Late on Monday, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed its concern about the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border, where a group of illegal migrants attempted to break through a barbed wire fence and cross into Poland but were stopped by the country’s police, border guards and servicemen.

During a briefing in Geneva on Tuesady, Mantoo said the UN agency was "very alarmed" by these reports.

"It’s a situation about which we have been expressing our concern for quite some time now," she said, adding that the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Issued quite a few statements calling for a resolution of this issue back in July. Among other things, the office is very concerned about the plight of women and children, she added.

"We have repeatedly said that using migrants and asylum seekers for political ends is unacceptable and must stop," the spokesperson said. "We’ve been engaging with all the parties that are involved for a resolution of this issue."

When asked about possible political measures that the European Union may take against Minsk, she replied that concerns expressed by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees are "limited to the humanitarian dimension." At the same time, "political measures" are beyond the framework of the agency’s activities, she continued.

"From the humanitarian perspective, <…> we are ready to support the authorities in having access to this population and to be able to assist in this particular situation to these individuals and ensure that they are able to receive protection," Mantoo added.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) issued a joint statement on Tuesday, saying they have been in contact with the Belarusian and Polish governments and are calling for "an urgent resolution of the situation and immediate and unhindered access" to this group of migrants. The access is necessary in order "to ensure that humanitarian assistance is provided, those in need of international or other forms of protection are identified and those who wish to apply for asylum can do so where they are."

"In view of the alarming situation at the border, both sides must uphold their obligations under international law and guarantee the safety, dignity, and protection of the rights of people stranded at the border," the statement says.

In turn, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has expressed its concern about "the dire situation facing migrant and asylum-seeking children in Europe and at its borders."

In the statement issued on Tuesday, UNICEF Special Coordinator for the Refugee and Migrant Response in Europe Afshan Khan said "reports of children living in appalling conditions, being pushed back or detained at the eastern borders are shocking."

"Children and their families have the right to seek asylum and have their protection needs evaluated on an individual basis," she said.

Khan said that UNICEF, along with other UN agencies, such as IOM and OHCHR, condems "the use of pushbacks, wherever they occur, as they violate international law and put children’s lives at risk without considering their best interest or the risks they may face upon return."

The migration crisis on the border of Belarus with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland deteriorated dramatically on November 8. Several thousand people approached the Polish border from the Belarusian side and refused to leave the border zone. Some of them have tried to cross into Poland by cutting razor wire fences. The European Union accuses Minsk of intentionally escalating the crisis and urges sanctions. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko blamed the situation on Western countries themselves, since their action had prompted people to flee the war.