UN expert urges Poland to end ‘double standards’ on refugees Migration News

The welcome for Ukrainians fleeing war is in stark contrast to Warsaw’s treatment of other migrants and refugees, said the UN special rapporteur.

The UN special rapporteur on the rights of migrants said that Polish authorities should stop locking up migrants near the Belarus border and end the “very different” treatment of Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian refugees.

Philip Gonzalez Morales on Thursday praised the actions of the Polish authorities and citizens who have provided protection and assistance to more than two million Ukrainian refugees and housed them since the start of the Russian invasion in February.

But he said that non-Ukrainians fleeing the country had faced difficulties in obtaining residence permits and adequate shelter and did not enjoy the same legal protection.

Some of the people fleeing the war were from third countries, often from the Middle East, Asia or Africa, who were studying or working in Ukraine at the time of the invasion.

“I note with concern that this double standard approach has led to a feeling of discrimination among third-country nationals,” Morales said in a statement following a trip to Poland and Belarus from July 12-25.

There was no immediate comment on Morales’ statement from the Polish government or the Polish border guards.

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Belarus border crisis

Besides the fallout from the war in Ukraine, Poland has faced attempts by tens of thousands of migrants and refugees since mid-2021 to cross its border with Belarus and enter the European Union.

The crisis prompted Poland to create an emergency zone, build a steel border barrier, and introduce a pushback campaign. Meanwhile, it is estimated that at least 20 migrants and refugees have died in the region’s frozen forests and swamps.

Morales said that these migrants and refugees, many of them from the Middle East and Afghanistan, are “routinely” held in de facto detention centers in Poland near the border, including children, in violation of international humanitarian law. He said he personally visited one of the centers and saw dozens of family members with children staying there.

“I have also called on Poland to use immigration detention as a measure of last resort to stop the practice of immigration detention of children,” he said at a virtual news briefing.

“I urge the relevant authorities to immediately release unaccompanied children, children with their families, pregnant women and individuals with mental conditions in open facilities,” he said.

Poland and other European Union members have accused Belarus of orchestrating the crisis by transporting people from the Middle East to try to illegally cross into the bloc in retaliation for Western sanctions imposed on Minsk after the long-disputed August 2020 elections that handed over the president. Alexander Lukashenko is a sixth term in office.

Minsk denied the allegations.

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