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UN rights office calls on Belarus, Poland to address refugees’ 'appalling situation'

Migrant children are seen near the fence on the Poland-Belarus border near Kuznica, Poland, in this video-grab released by the Polish Interior Ministry on November 11, 2021. (Via Reuters)

A spokesperson for the UN Human Rights office says Belarus and Poland are pushing refugees back and forth across their border and leaving them without enough food and other basic necessities.

Elizabeth Throssell at a press briefing on Tuesday urged both countries to address “this appalling situation.”

The appeal comes after refugees interviewed by a UN human rights team on a recent trip to Poland said they had suffered violence and been left hungry and cold.

“Those interviewed described dire conditions on both sides of the border, with no or limited access to food, clean water, and shelter, often amid freezing temperatures,” she said.

Throssell further said many refugees had crossed the border several times in both directions due to “recurring practices by the two countries of pushing people up to or across the border.”

Some of them hid from security forces for weeks in the forest along the border, with one making over two dozen attempts to cross from Belarus to Poland, she added.

The UN Human Rights office has called on both countries to “ensure that refugees’ and migrants’ human rights are at the center of their actions.”

Poland has banned hundreds of asylum seekers, mostly from the Middle East, from illegally entering the central European country from neighboring Belarus, and warned of an “armed” escalation with thousands of stranded migrants near the border.

Warsaw claims that Minsk coordinated the migrant influx, saying the border crisis threatens the security of the entire European Union (EU). Belarus, however, denies the charge.

The EU claims that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has encouraged the migrant flow in retaliation for existing sanctions imposed by the bloc on Belarus, but Lukashenko has denied the allegation.

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