Belarus, Poland used 'brutal violence' against migrants at shared border: report

Belarus, Poland used 'brutal violence' against migrants at shared border: report
2 min read
22 December, 2021
Migrants trying to cross the Belarus-Poland border were subject to 'horrific torture or other ill-treatment, inhumane conditions, extortion and other abuse', Amnesty International said
The report is based on the testimonies of 75 migrants who travelled to Belarus between July and November 2021 [Getty]

Belarusian and Polish forces used brutal violence against asylum seekers and migrants at their shared border, Amnesty International said Monday.

This year's migrant crisis has seen thousands of migrants, mainly from the Middle East, flock to the Belarusian border with Poland to try to enter the European Union.

The asylum seekers and migrants were subject to "horrific torture or other ill-treatment, inhumane conditions, extortion and other abuse", particularly at the hands of Belarusian forces, according to testimonies gathered by the human rights organisation.

Many migrants at the border were escorted to "fenced off... collection sites" where they were trapped in inhumane conditions for days or weeks, Amnesty said. Belarusian authorities allegedly accepted bribes from some migrants, allowing them to leave the fenced-off sites.

Some migrants were later violently forced into Poland, then pushed back by Polish authorities, the report said.

"[The Belarusian soldiers] had four dogs with them. They said they would let the dogs loose so if we didn't run fast, we would get bitten. The soldiers ran after us beating anyone who didn’t run fast enough with batons," one Syrian migrant told Amnesty.

"Some [Belarusian officials] had iron finger boxing rings and steel-tipped boots. They kicked us while we were lying on [the] ground. My body was left black and blue," an Iraqi Kurdish migrant said.

Many of the migrants were also deprived of food, water, and sanitation by the Belarusian authorities.

The majority of those who tried to cross the border more recently said they also suffered violent treatment by Polish authorities, who reportedly pepper-sprayed children and pushed adults into rivers.   

The report is based on the testimonies of 75 migrants - from Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria - who travelled to Belarus between July and November 2021.

The EU accused Belarus of luring in the migrants and pushing them to illegally cross the Polish border to manufacture the crisis and destabilise the EU, as revenge for sanctions against Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko's regime.

Belarus has denied the accusations against them.