Polish NGOs and individuals have called on the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, to end the gross violations of migrants’ rights along the Poland-Belarus Border. Finnish authorities have extended the closure of their country’s borders with Russia fearing activities related to the instrumentalisation of migrants. Slovenia intercepted more than 60,000 people crossing its borders in 2023, particularly from Croatia.

101 NGOs including ECRE member organisations the Ocalenie Foundation, the Legal Intervention Association and the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR), and hundreds of individuals submitted a petition to the Polish Prime Minister, Donald Tusk, calling for an end to the systematic practice of pushbacks along Poland’s borders. “As a result of the pushback policy, at least 55 people have lost their lives on both sides of the Polish-Belarusian border since the beginning of the crisis”, the appeal stated. In the meantime, Deputy Minister Maciej Duszczyk, responsible for migration in Tusk’s government, emphasised in an interview that pushbacks will persist to “secure the border” underlining “but with an element of humanitarianism”. According to Duszczyk, “an element of humanitarianism” is “Some kind of softening of pushbacks and limiting them, i.e. a situation in which sick people or people who need help will not be pushed out”. Meanwhile, an internal report from the Polish Border Guard revealed that in 2023, the border wall between Belarus and Poland failed to prevent more than 60% of irregular crossings to the country, and decried its “lack of effectiveness”. “More than 30.000 people crossed the border irregularly from Belarus to Poland. Of whom, at least 13.000 managed to reach Germany”, according to the report, which also admitted the documentation of at least 3000 cases of “hot returns”.

The Commander-in-Chief (CIC)of Poland’s Border Guard accepted HFHR’s complaint concerning the case of an Ethiopian man who was arrested on 8 March 2023, after attempting to enter Poland three days earlier. The CIC issued a decision ordering the man to leave Polish territory and the man was returned to Belarus later the same day. The CIC acknowledged that the deportation of the concerned client was “illegal” explaining: “It is impossible to conclude that in this case the condition of ‘immediate’ detention of a foreigner after crossing the state border has been met (…). The border crossing protocol contained in the case files of the first instance authority shows that the party crossed the border on 5 March 2023, and therefore three days earlier than it was disclosed. Moreover, the foreigner was discovered at a distance of approximately seven kilometres from the state border, which also does not meet the requirement of  “immediateness” of this event after crossing the border.” (Translated from Polish)

Finland has extended the closure of its borders with Russia until 11 February, with the possibility of the measure being extended again. During this time, all Finnish-Russian crossing points will remain closed, and no one will be allowed to cross the border from either side. Additionally, international protection applications will not be accepted at Finland’s eastern border and will only be accepted at border crossing points where entry and exit are permitted. The Minister of the Interior of Finland called this move “necessary” because “there is no data suggesting that Russia will put an end to its activities related to instrumentalisation of migrants”. Meanwhile, amid a rise of hate crimes in Finland targeting people with an ethnic background, leading presidential candidate, Pekka Haavisto, said that his country must crack down on hate speech against minorities if it is to appear “united against all external threats”, including from Russia. Fighting hate speech aimed at making people of colour and others feel “scared of expressing their opinions” was key to national security, he added, saying external actors might seek to exploit domestic divisions. “If we want to keep the country united against all external threats, including Russian threats, it is very important that we can handle these types of topics nationally because otherwise these are misused against us and all kinds of provocations can appear. It’s important that we grow in tolerance as Finns,” Haavisto told the Guardian in an interview.

Slovenia intercepted 60,587 people crossing its borders irregularly in 2023 with the majority coming from Croatia, up from 32,024 people in 2022. Meanwhile, on 22 December 2023, the Slovenian authorities extended the temporary border controls on the country’s borders with Croatia and Hungary until 22 June. Moreover, the Italian authorities have decided to extend controls along Italy’s border with Slovenia until 18 June.

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