Geneva, 10 November 2021
“I am appalled that large numbers of migrants and refugees continue to be left in a desperate situation in near-freezing temperatures at the Belarus-Poland border. I urge the States involved to take immediate steps to de-escalate and resolve this intolerable situation in line with their obligations under international human rights law and refugee law.
The strong security-focused and politically charged responses on both sides – including through the increased deployment of troops – and accompanying inflammatory rhetoric, serve only to exacerbate the vulnerability and risks that migrants and refugees face.
I call on the authorities concerned to ensure that the human rights of these individuals are the paramount concern. This means States need to work together to protect the lives and dignity of all those stranded at their common borders. Immediate access should be granted to humanitarian actors, as well as other civil society and journalists and lawyers.
Under international law, no one should ever be prevented from seeking asylum or other forms of international human rights protection, and individual consideration must be given to their protection needs.
Several people have already died over the past few months – governments in the region cannot stand by and allow more lives to be lost. States have an obligation to protect the right to life. These hundreds of men, women and children must not be forced to spend another night in freezing weather without adequate shelter, food, water and medical care.”
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