After three months, the state of emergency in Poland will expire in the border region with Belarus. But a new law allows journalists to continue to be denied access.
After the end of the three-month state of emergency , Poland is restricting access to the border area with Belarus with a new law. The regulation passed by the Polish parliament and signed by President Andrzej Duda makes it possible, on the recommendation of the national border protection authority, to deny access to an area 15 kilometers wide for security reasons. Exceptions should only be made for residents or for people who work or study there.
The border guard management also decides on access for journalists. The controversial state of emergency for the border region, which has been in force since September, automatically expires at midnight.
According to Polish law, the state of emergency can only be imposed for a maximum of three months. The government in Warsaw had proclaimed it in response to thousands of migrants who wanted to come to the European Union via Belarus.
This meant that journalists and aid organizations were also prohibited from entering the border area. Poland also erected a barbed wire fence and stationed thousands of soldiers along the 400-kilometer border. Refugees who made it to Poland were illegally returned to Belarus.
Poland and the European Union accuse Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko of deliberately bringing the refugees, most of whom come from Iraq and Syria, to the EU's external border. So pressure should be exerted to lift the sanctions against Lukashenko. Many refugees are now returning to their home countries after failing to cross the border to the EU.
Opposition criticizes the new regulation on the border area
The Polish Senate, which is dominated by the opposition, had spoken out in favor of giving the media and aid organizations access to the border area. But the right-wing conservative majority in the Sejm lower house rejected this.
The new regulation comes into force when it is published in the Polish Official Gazette. According to the opposition and human rights organizations, it gives the government too much power and violates the Polish Constitution. Some legal experts described the changes as anti-democratic. They allow the Polish Minister of the Interior to act without the consent of Parliament.
Polish media estimate that at least twelve people have died in the border area so far. The human rights organization Human Rights Watch announced that "Belarus brought about this situation without considering the human consequences" and that "Poland shares responsibility for the acute suffering in the border region". Both countries committed serious human rights violations against migrants.
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