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Poland vs Belarus: when European values are at risk

In the last months, the situation at the border between Poland and Belarus has became tenser by the minute. But what is it that is actually happening at the border between Poland and Belarus, and why should these events be considered a matter of the European Union?

Starting from the very beginning, it must be said that this crisis concerns the phenomenon of immigration and in particular, how these two neighbouring countries, Poland and Belarus, are dealing with this issue. Nevertheless, there is a fundamental premise to these events: this flow of immigration from Belarus to Poland is not a completely natural and spontaneous one since, according to Polish sources, the Belarusian authorities are the ones orchestrating the whole thing.

What is their aim? To pose a threat to the European Union by putting pressure on the Polish government. Then why is Belarus eager to intimidate the European Union? The reason lies in the fact that the sixth re-election of Aleksandr Lukashenko as president of Belarus was recognised as legitimate by the European authorities which, together with the US had imposed sanctions on the Belarusian government. Yet, despite these pressures, Bruxelles keeps standing beside Warsaw and against Minsk, who is considered responsible for this crisis together with Russia, whose president, Vladimir Putin, supports Lukashenko’s government.

On the other hand, Poland’s behaviour cannot be considered wholly orthodox due to the fact that, since the very beginning of this new flow of immigration, Warsaw's government has adopted strict and brutal measures aimed at immigrants. But, if on one side, the initial lack of preparation in facing these new phenomena was understandable, on the other one, the long-term measures adopted appear to be overly radical and unjustified: walls, barbed wires, and unprecedented violence are the order of the day at the border between Poland and Belarus.

The strangest element in Poland’s way of managing the crisis is constituted by the fact that Warsaw did not remotely consider the possibility of welcoming refugees or asking for help from European institutions. Poland’s main aim was to show the EU that it can handle the situation by itself, but, by doing so, the whole phenomenon ended up being seen as a non-problematic one by other foreign countries.Indeed, raising awareness of these events in the rest of Europe has not been easy, since almost every observer had been driven away from the problematic area for a long time and, because of this, even fragmented and unverified updates of the situation were difficult to obtain.

In this situation, the European Commission accused the president of Belarus, Lukashenko, of"using people as pawns" and strongly condemned his behaviour due to the consequences it has had on millions of people. This is the reason why the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, has declared the situation unacceptable, as it violates European values and endangers human lives for the pursuit of a specific political agenda (although the Belarusian president keeps denying his intention to politicise the immigration issue).

Even if the geopolitical situation appears intricate and complicated, everyone’s focus should be fixed on the condition of the people living at the border between the two states, who have battled freezing weather without any food and medical attention. Reports of brutal beatings and gruelling conditions have emerged. Precisely due to the aforementioned fact, humanitarian groups are accusing Poland of violating the international right of asylum (according to the 14 Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) by pushing people back into Belarus.

The most shocking factor in this situation, indeed, is that the biggest economies and international organisations in the world are aware of the tragic situation at the border between the two states, yet almost nothing has changed, leaving millions of people from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and in the vicinities in inhumane conditions.

In conclusion, those are actually paying the price of the false premises of Belarus, the violence of Poland but, especially, Europe’s indifference, are the immigrants, exploited for political and economic interests. What has been clearly forgotten is the fact that human lives are at stake, in particular those of people who left their home countries in search of a safer home — and not one where their lives are in constant danger.


Author: Francesca Matera

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