Refugee crisis in Lithuania and Poland: 4 basic questions on a new episode of barbarity against the weakest

10 November, 2021

Refugee crisis in Poland

A thousand refugees and migrants at the border may seem commonplace in Mediterranean countries. But on the eastern borders of the EU this means a full-fledged refugee crisis mobilizing the army and serving as the basis for a brutal nationalist and racist campaign. In a perverse game between the dictator of Belarus and the rulers of Poland, Lithuania, Hungary and Greece, it is serving as a means of ending the few remaining guarantees for refugees and migrants in Europe. “The right of asylum, as laid down in European law, no longer exists throughout Europe,” sentenced Spiegel yesterday.

Table of Contents

How many are there and where are the refugees coming from?

Refugee crisis. Young Iraqi Kurds yesterday at the Belarus-Poland border
Refugee crisis. Young Iraqi Kurds yesterday at the Belarus-Poland border

Most of the refugees crowding the border today come from Middle Eastern countries.

Families interviewed by the press these days tell how they arrived to Belarus by plane and on tourist visas via Dubai, after paying for visas and papers about €3,000 for each family member, the equivalent of more than a year’s average salary. In addition, journalists yesterday spoke of a group of young Kurds from northern Iraq, Lebanese families and some Afghan, Syrian, Iranian, Congolese, Guinean and Cameroonian refugees.

What role does Belarus play in all this?

Origins of the migration crisis. Flights on offer with documents on Belarusian airlines.
Origins of the migration crisis. Flights on offer with documents on Belarusian airlines.

The arrival of some 5,000 people within such a narrow date range was no accident. A number of Belarusian airlines organized the “offer”, tourist visas and hotels included. As denounced by the Lithuanian foreign minister, these were official entities following a government plan:

The difference between how Lukashenko is using refugees as a weapon and the previous refugee crisis in Europe is that, in this case, we have official bodies involved. We need to understand that there are official airlines moving people from Baghdad to Istanbul or from Istanbul to Minsk, travel agencies that are registered in several countries, that means that there are possibly official bodies involved in human trafficking

Lithuanian Foreign Minister on Euractive

The goal of refugees, unemployed youths and petty-bourgeois families was to prepare to cross individually or in small groups and file asylum applications at Polish and Lithuanian border posts, with the aim of entering the EU and subsequently moving toward Germany.

But by the refugees’ own accounts they were summarily expelled from the country. Not allowed to enter Poland and not allowed to return to Belarus, they were stranded in the no-man’s land between the two borders, a frigid Polish forest where at least a dozen have already frozen to death.

Belarusian security forces forced him onto a bus and drove him along the main road 6 to the Polish border. There, he and the other asylum seekers were met by Belarusian soldiers in camouflage. […] Other migrants, especially Kurds from northern Iraq, apparently went on their own. They wanted to seek asylum at the border crossing near the town of Kuznica, but Belarusian security forces pushed them into the forest. […]

[Poland and Lithuania] Have sealed their borders. They are systematically pushing refugee men, women and children who have managed to enter the EU back to Belarus. Asylum seekers generally do not have the opportunity to apply for asylum. The Polish parliament recently legalized these so-called pushbacks, even though they violate EU law and the Geneva Refugee Convention.

Ten corpses have already been found in the forest, many of them apparently frozen to death. The actual number of victims could be higher, the border area is one of the coldest areas in the region, at night temperatures already regularly drop below zero degrees. Now that thousands of people, including many children, are trapped at the border, the situation is in danger of spiraling out of control.

Spiegel

What has been the reaction of the EU countries?

Refugees and migrants arrive at the border between Belarus and Poland, where more than 12,000 soldiers have been deployed.

The EU denounced the “misuse” of migrants by Belarus and the Commission immediately moved to extend sanctions. But neither the Commission nor any country in the Union questioned for a moment that the migrants were treated as border enemies. Rather, the consensual position is, in the words of the Lithuanian foreign minister that

Those who illegally enter the EU cannot be granted refugee status and will be sent back to their countries of origin

In fact the ever brutal, racist and militaristic Seehofer, Germany’s interior minister, went further:

We should help the Polish government to secure its external border. This would really be the task of the European Commission. I now call on them to act.

“Poor Poland” meanwhile has not only not allowed in refugees and migrants who were freezing, but deployed 12,000 soldiers and according to Le Monde “erected a razor-sharp barbed wire fence and enforced a local state of emergency banning journalists from working.” All garnished with a hysterical nationalist campaign about the “sacredness” of the border.

Seeing the criminal record of national border guards and the complicity of Frontex with abuses and crimes against refugees from Greece to Croatia, the news blackout could well mean that paramilitary troops will again be used against refugees.

What can we expect now

A father and son wait in the woods by the Polish barbed wire fence.
A father and son wait in the woods by the Polish barbed wire fence.

It is clear that this “refugee crisis” is just another moment in the imperialist battles between the EU countries and Russia. It is part of the increasing tension we have been experiencing in recent years. It has everything to do with the Nord Stream 2 and gas prices and nothing to do with considerations about refugees and migrants, used once again as cannon fodder and expendable and throwable objects. For the bourgeoisie, in all countries, refugees and migrants are only labor to exploit when they have the opportunity to do so and weapons to use in their battles and negotiations.

Little can be further said about an infamous satrap like Lukashenko, but the bleeding hypocrisy of the EU should be pointed out. The EU denounces – rightly so – the Belarusian dictator as an abuser of refugees and migrants, at the same time as it toughens migration policy, militarizes borders and turns a deaf ear to the crimes pointed out by the EU Parliament itself, committed by paramilitary forces organized by member states with the acquiescence of Frontex against refugees on at least three EU borders.

What distinguishes this crisis in Europe is the passage from clandestinity to the formal legality of legislations turning refugees seeking asylum into criminals. To the three Baltic countries – two of them with constitutions so racist that they deny nationality to large percentages of the native population, legally stateless – are now joined by Poland, Hungary and Greece. The complicity of Germany, the desired destination of most of the migrants arriving from the Middle East, heralds its generalization.

The discourse justifying this step towards “fortress Europe” with the convenient and false “not everyone can come” while presenting “legal migration” as an alternative, is of overwhelming cynicism.

Neither refugees suffering persecution nor migrants without strong ties to large European companies have any chance of being “legally recruited before departure”. In fact, except for the organizers of “contingents” of seasonal workers and for the discreet parallel privileged systems of large corporations, it is virtually impossible to get a work visa and residence permit even if you have a firm job offer in an EU country.

All asylum policies in response to international crises and all refugee and migration legislation are designed to exclude workers.

Now, they will also criminalize them before they can apply for asylum in case of persecution. That’s how “humanitarian” and “progressive” the EU is, and that’s how the states that make it up are.