Information on the numbers and nationalities of migrants who entered Europe.. A proposal to suspend some asylum provisions in the countries bordering Belarus
Yesterday, Wednesday, the European Union proposed allowing member states bordering Belarus to suspend some provisions of asylum applications and prolong legal procedures for deciding them, at a time when Poland rejected this proposal and was criticized by non-governmental organizations.
Belarus is accused of masterminding the flow of migrants towards European countries bordering its borders, while new information was published about the nationalities and numbers of migrants who entered Europe through Belarus.
These proposed measures would allow Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to extend the registration period for asylum applications to 4 weeks instead of the current maximum of 10 days – and extend the application review period to 16 weeks.
Organizations concerned with defending the rights of migrants criticized the amendments, describing them as being aimed at making Europe a “fortress” and undermining the European Union’s reputation in terms of humane treatment of asylum seekers.
EU Home Affairs Commissioner Yelva Johansson said the situation at the borders of these EU countries and Belarus is “unprecedented… that’s why we are taking all these measures.”
Johansson indicated that the situation is in the process of “containing the escalation”, while the European Union is putting pressure on countries that constitute a starting point for migrants – such as Iraq – to stop flights to Belarus, and to restore part of the migrants who are there, whose numbers are estimated to be in the thousands.
However, she stressed the need for “flexibility… to deal with danger,” describing the situation as “difficult and stressful.”
For his part, European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said the bloc was in a “firefighting” position in terms of tackling a “hybrid threat” in which Belarus pushes migrants to the borders of the European Union.
“We offer a solution to address the rights of people who wish to seek asylum in exceptional circumstances,” he added.
Amnesty International considered that it was possible to control the situation completely with the rules that were in place.
“Today’s proposals will penalize people in exchange for political gains, weaken asylum protections and undermine the EU’s position both internally and externally,” said IOM Director for Europe Yves Gede.
“This proposal weakens the basic rights of asylum seekers, strengthens the immunization of Europe, and contradicts all the principles of the European Union,” said Geir Erin Mackay, Oxfam’s director of migration campaigns.
The proposal needs the approval of EU member states to become effective.
The Director of the European Council for Refugees and Exiles, Catherine Woolard, lamented the “dangerous precedent”, noting that “Member states have been allowed to commit violations at the borders with complete impunity.”
Green and Social Democrats in the European Parliament also criticized the proposal. “The commission succumbed to pressure from the extreme right-wing Polish government and the blackmail of the Belarusian dictator, and trampled on European values,” said the French deputy from the Green Party.
Poland, for its part, considered the proposal “counterproductive” and indicated its intention to renegotiate it.
Polish Ambassador to the European Union Andrei Sados said: “The commission has adopted the completely opposite solution to what we proposed. We have proposed that the response to a hybrid attack could suspend the asylum procedure, not prolong it.”
According to European Commission figures, about 8,000 migrants arrived in the EU via Belarus this year, 4,285 people entered from Lithuania, 3,255 from Poland and 426 from Latvia.
And the irregular arrivals, the majority of them are from Iraq, Syria and Yemen, and many of them told journalists that they intend to head west into the European Union, especially Germany, Finland and other countries to seek asylum.
But Poland, Lithuania and Latvia have tightened controls at their borders, deployed troops and installed barbed wire to prevent migrants from crossing into their territory from Belarus.
The most strict position came from Poland, which has criminalized illegal border crossing, and imposed a controversial state of emergency that allows for a media blackout along the border, which prevents journalists and human rights activists from being informed of what is happening.
And yesterday, Wednesday, the state of emergency was extended to 3 months until the end of next February.
According to Polish media, at least 12 people died on both sides of the border. This week, Human Rights Watch accused Warsaw and Minsk of serious human rights abuses.