Carrying banners saying “Stop the torture at the border” and “No one is illegal”, thousands of Polish protesters have marched in solidarity with migrants and asylum seekers trying to cross the Belarus-Poland border.
They accuse Polish authorities of cruel behaviour for pushing migrants back and for imposing a state of emergency at the border that has prevented human rights workers from going there to help.
For about two months, large numbers of people from the Middle East and Africa have been trying to enter Poland illegally from Belarus. Polish authorities have reacted firmly. They accused Belarus and Russia of encouraging the migration to trigger instability within the entire EU, calling it “hybrid warfare”.
At Sunday’s protest, many carried flags made of emergency foil, a reference to the blankets the migrants trapped outdoors at the border need now as temperatures fall to freezing at night.
A protester said: “I do not agree with the methods used by our authorities: illegal push-backs and even, participation in the death of people at the border, adults, women, children. It is simply shameful.”
Elmi Abdi, president of the Somali Association in Poland, who attended the march, recalls the days when he was in the same situation 25 years ago.
“I was a refugee, I came to Poland in 1996. I crossed the border exactly where people are now dying. I was over there for more than 20 days, so I know what I’m saying. I really feel very sorry for these people who are on their own, without any help.” he has said.
Locals living near the border are being urged to switch on a green light to signal that they can provide migrants with food and shelter.