Tensions that have simmered along the Polish-Belarus border for weeks spilled into violence on Tuesday. Polish border guards used water cannons against migrants on the Belarusian side of the border. Warsaw says people were armed with gas bombs supplied by Belarus, which they threw over fences toward Polish guards. Stones and stones were also fired during a tense confrontation at the barrier. Belarus has accused Poland of backing down and not allowing people to apply for asylum in the European Union. But Warsaw says Minsk is involved in a hybrid attack on the country.
Jacques Baroc, Euronews’ correspondent in Brussels, says the situation at the border is a major concern for the European Union, particularly when it comes to supporting people’s right to seek asylum.
“These people have been at that border for several days now and it’s very cold and it looks like this kind of boiling point has been reached. This is a major concern for the European Union.”
There are also questions about the security of those borders, but the big question as well, and maybe that’s something that hasn’t been talked about enough maybe during this crisis, is that once these people are in Poland, they have the right to apply for asylum.
Nicolo A Vega Talamanca, Secretary General of No Peace Without Justice, a non-profit organization, explained that what Poland is doing is against international law:
“The circumstances under which a person arrives have no bearing on the rights that persons have under international law under Article 3.1 of the Refugee Convention to seek asylum in a country. Asylum seekers are often forced to arrive or enter a territory without authorization because they are fleeing from persecution.”
The refugee agreement is clear
“Last month, Poland passed legislation allowing migrants to be turned away at the border. So from a Polish point of view, from a Polish legal point of view, the authorities are bound by Polish law. But Polish law is simply illegal under international law. The refugee treaty is clear,” said Vega Talamanca.
Poland simply insists that it protects the external borders of the European Union. We have seen the European Union agree to impose more sanctions on Belarus over this immigration issue. “Four rounds of sanctions against the regime of President Alexander Lukashenko have not really changed anything, but now we know that this situation is getting more difficult, as we have seen with this, with this violence on the border” concludes Vega Talamanca
On Tuesday, Jens Stoltenberg, the head of NATO, said he was concerned about the situation in Belarus, but also said he stood in NATO positions in solidarity with Poland and other affected allies.
Poland has not yet invoked Article 4 of the NATO treaties, which is the time when serious consultations about military cooperation come into force if a country feels it may be threatened. Poland did not.
In fact, the Polish government feels that it controls those borders on a large scale. The military presence there is very dense, but there is another angle to this as well. Ukraine has said there are 100,000 Russian troops on its border. This is clearly a concern for nature as well. So this eastern border within Europe from the European Union has become a rather big problem.
Watch the full Euronews report on the player above.