UN agencies want access to asylum-seekers stuck at EU border

International Headlines

Warsaw residents place candles before the national Border Guards Headquarters in a sign of mourning for four migrants found dead over the weekend along the border between Poland and Belarus, Warsaw, Poland, on Monday, Sept. 20, 2021. European Union members Poland and Lithuania are facing increasing migrant pressures on their borders with Belarus, which are part of the bloc’s eastern border and say it is a “hybrid attack” by Belarus to destabilize the 27-nation EU. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Two United Nations agencies requested access Tuesday to asylum-seekers stranded at Belarus’s border with Poland and Lithuania, after four migrants were found dead in the area.

The International Organization for Migration and the U.N. Refugee Agency called on the governments involved to be guided primarily by human rights and international law as they try to stop people from illegally entering the European Union from Belarus.

In a joint statement, the U.N. agencies called for an investigation of the four deaths and asked for “immediate access” to other refugees and migrants “in order to provide lifesaving medical help, food, water and shelter, especially in light of the approaching winter.”

The governments of Poland and Lithuania introduced states of emergency that deny entry to certain border areas to anyone except border guards and security services. They also are building razor wire fences along their border with Belarus.

Poland’s authorities said three people who were found dead Sunday close to the Belarusian border died from hypothermia and exhaustion. Polish border guards also saw the body of a woman close to the border, on the Belarus side.

The U.N. agencies, both based in Geneva, said the nationalities of the people who died has not been confirmed, but two of the victims who died of hypothermia were believed to be from Iraq.

The agencies said they were “following with growing concern, reports of pushbacks of people at these borders. Groups of people have become stranded for weeks, unable to access any form of assistance, asylum or basic services. Many were left in dire situations, exposed to the elements, suffering from hypothermia. Some were rescued from swamps.”

Refusing to allow asylum-seekers to seek protection if considered a violation of international law.

EU members Poland and Lithuania received an unusual number of migrants and refugees from Belarus in recent months. They allege that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s government is trying to destabilize the 27-nation EU.

The border pressure began after Western countries introduced sanctions on Lukashenko’s government over the country’s disputed August 2020 presidential election and a crackdown on the opposition.

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