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EU rights court calls on Poland, Latvia to aid migrants on Belarus border

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By Reuters
Charity say migrants on Polish-Belarus border seriously ill
Charity say migrants on Polish-Belarus border seriously ill   -   Copyright  Thomson Reuters 2021

WARSAW -The European Court of Human Rights asked the Polish and Latvian governments on Wednesday to intervene to help migrants camped on the Belarus border.

The fate of the migrants has become part of a broader dispute between the European Union and Belarus and groups such as Polish refugee charity Ocalenie Foundation have grown increasingly concerned for their welfare.

The foundation has been communicating with a group of 32 migrants on the Belarus side of the border with Poland, using a translator with a megaphone from a distance. It said on Wednesday 25 of them were unwell, with 12 seriously ill.

It said they had no drinking water and had nothing to eat since Tuesday.

“Fifty-two-year-old Mrs. Gul will soon die in front of her five children. Rescue is needed NOW,” it said on Twitter.

It said the woman was from Afghanistan and had two sons and three daughters with her, the youngest of whom was aged 15. It declined to provide further details about her, but said the other migrants there were also from Afghanistan.

Poland and fellow EU states Lithuania and Latvia have reported sharp increases in migrants from countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq trying to cross their borders.

The European Union accuses Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko of orchestrating the arrival of thousands of people at the borders in retaliation for sanctions imposed on the former Soviet republic.

The Belarusian foreign ministry on Tuesday accused Poland of provoking migrant flows from Afghanistan as part of the U.S. coalition, according to the state-run Belta news agency. It blamed the breakdown in border cooperation on the EU.

The court move comes after Poland’s Helsinki Committee for Human Rights said this week it had asked it to implement the temporary measure.

The court said it requested “that the Polish and Latvian authorities provide all the applicants with food, water, clothing, adequate medical care and, if possible, temporary shelter”.

Neither the Polish government spokesperson nor Latvia’s foreign ministry spokesperson could be immediately reached for comment on the ruling.

The court said the measure “should not be understood as requiring that Poland or Latvia let the applicants enter their territories”.

Poland, which said this week it would build a fence on the border and double the number of troops there to halt the flow, has said responsibility for the migrants lies with Belarus.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on Wednesday that a convoy of humanitarian aid offered by Poland had been refused by Minsk. His deputy foreign minister said Belarusian authorities were providing the migrants with water, food and cigarettes.

Belarus authorities were not immediately available to comment on what aid they had been providing.