The Polish government has introduced a state of emergency within the border zone between Poland and Belarus, on the strength of which no medical aid is being allowed in to help those who are sick and dying on the border, and blocks media access to the tragedy that is unfolding there. However, even the incomplete, fragmentary information that is coming through provides insight into the vast scale of the humanitarian disaster that is taking place on the border of the European Union: we know that the people there are being subjected to a merciless push-back procedure, condemning them to hypothermia, starvation and exhaustion in forests and marshes.
Belarusian travel agencies controlled by the Lukashenka regime are promising desperate people transit into the European Union in exchange for a high fee. Lured by this means to Minsk, they are then taken by organised transportation to the forests on the border. There an attempt is made to push them into Poland by force, while the Polish border guards and troops also use force to turn them back into Belarus. In the worst cases this ends in death. Some of the people who have died are known to us by name, others are dying anonymously.
As citizens and residents of the European Union we appeal to you as Europe’s democratically elected representatives – let us not avert our gaze from this tragedy.
We must be aware of the fact that these people are being exploited as hostages. These hellish practices will go down in history as an example of modern-day atrocities. Too often in the history of Europe we have allowed ourselves to remain in ignorance. We have closed our eyes and covered our ears. We have kept silent. Following the experiences of the twentieth century we know that uncomfortable, tiresome truths exist. To protect their own sense of well-being, the majority of people refused to take notice of them. Today the situation is being repeated.
For us the European Union is above all a moral community that goes beyond all borders, based on the principles of interpersonal solidarity. This gives us the right to appeal to you to take an unambiguous stance with regard to this matter. We realize that it is not easy to deal with the pressure of despair on the borders of Europe. However, what we are allowing to take place on those borders is not in line with our fundamental European values.
We are appealing for the fastest and most effective solution to this humanitarian crisis, for observation of the rules of the Geneva Convention, and above all for an asylum procedure to be initiated for all those asking for it, and who are being detained in this part of the eastern border of the European Union.
We demand a wide-ranging diplomatic initiative within the countries of the Middle East aimed at opposing the false narrative of the Belarusian regime, the purpose of which is to lure as many desperate refugees as possible to the Poland-Belarus border, and by doing so to exacerbate and destabilise the political situation in Poland and throughout the European Union.
Above all we appeal for humanitarian organisations to be allowed into the border zone to provide medical and legal assistance.
We also demand access for accredited journalists and representatives of the media into the areas of the border zone that are covered by the state of emergency, an essential requirement for presenting complete and truthful information to the general public.
Today we are feeling painfully helpless, but knowing the facts means being aware of the evil that is being perpetrated. Knowledge of this kind should be followed by action.
Nobel Prize Laureates in Literature