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26 Aug, 2021 13:45

As EU states build walls to stop migrants, ECHR tells Poland & Latvia to provide shelter for those crossing Belarusian border

As EU states build walls to stop migrants, ECHR tells Poland & Latvia to provide shelter for those crossing Belarusian border

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has demanded that both Poland and Latvia assist migrants who cross over their borders with Belarus, following appeals for help from 32 Afghan and 41 Iraqi nationals stuck at the frontiers.

Poland and Latvia, along with Lithuania, have been facing increased legal migration in past few weeks, as foreign nationals attempt to cross into the European Union via Belarus. The crisis comes after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko warned that his country would no longer make any effort to stop illegal immigration. Vilnius claims that the government in Minsk has flown in migrants from abroad, and is shuttling them to the border as a form of warfare.

“The Court decided ... that the Polish and Latvian authorities [must] provide all the applicants with food, water, clothing, adequate medical care and, if possible, temporary shelter,” the ECHR judgement says.

At the same time, the court clarified that this measure should “not be understood as requiring that Poland or Latvia let the applicants enter their territories.”

The application was filed on behalf of 32 citizens of Afghanistan, as well as 41 Iraqi citizens of Kurdish origin, who wish to enter the territory of Poland and Latvia but are stranded in no man’s land. They cannot return to Belarus, which has not signed the European Convention on Human Rights.

Earlier this week, Warsaw announced its intention to build a sturdy 2.5-meter-high fence on the frontier with Belarus, which would be manned with extra soldiers. That decision came after Lithuania also opted to reinforce its border.

The decision to build extra fences has been backed by the EU. This is a huge U-turn from the European bloc, which once blasted member state Hungary for doing the exact same thing in 2015, during the refugee crisis, when Budapest was branded as inhumane and immoral.

Last week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova pointed to Poland's direct “contribution” to the worsening migration crisis in Europe, noting that Warsaw had taken part in the Iraq War but was refusing to accept refugees.

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