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“It’s heartbreaking”: how Polish volunteers rescue poverty-stricken migrants at the Belarusian border

While the official Warsaw refuses to let in the migrants who have accumulated on the Belarusian border, not wanting to recognize them as refugees, many Poles express a desire to help people in difficult situations.

In the Polish media, you can see lists of various NGOs that are involved in helping migrants, as well as talk about ways to help them. One of the most popular is called a financial donation, but it is also suggested to become a volunteer working with refugees. The monetary contributions are spent on humanitarian transportation, shelter, medical and legal assistance, and integration with the host society.

“You don’t have to be at the border to help refugees,” writes Gazeta Wyborcza. “We can’t do much on this issue, but here’s exactly what we can: offer a blanket, a sleeping bag or waterproof clothing.”

Among the organizations that help refugees and migrants, mention is made, for example, of Caritas Polska, which carries out humanitarian aid campaigns both in Poland and abroad. This organization operates centers for refugees and migrants in Szczecin, Kalisz and Warsaw, providing systematic assistance in the field of intercultural integration, career counseling, psychological and legal assistance, classes in community centers and educational packages. Since the beginning of the current migration crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border, Caritas Polska has been organizing humanitarian transfers to centers where foreigners arrive, providing migrants with food, detergents, hygiene items, and blankets.

Helping migrants and the Polish Red Cross collecting material gifts for aid packages for migrants. Donations are accepted at Red Cross offices throughout Poland. Currently, the most in demand are: jackets, sweaters, thick socks, warm shoes, hats, scarves, blankets and sleeping bags. At the same time, clothes and shoes must be new or used, but in good condition. High-energy products are accepted (bars, chocolate, dried fruits), as well as other food products (pies and other canned poultry, canned fish, crackers, waffles, etc.).

The Polish non-governmental humanitarian organization Grupa Granica, which monitors the situation on the Polish-Belarusian border, believes that refugees need to be rescued as soon as possible. Indeed, if the Polish border police finds injured migrants before doctors, they send them back to Belarus, explaining this step by the fact that their health condition may deteriorate at any time, and the risk of death in such conditions is great.

The Guardian tells how 15 Iraqi Kurds ended up in the forests of the Polish village of Narewka after they managed to cross the border of Belarus and the European Union. All migrants had early signs of hypothermia. One woman could hardly walk. They had no choice but to turn to volunteers for help. A team from Grupa Granica, before the border guards, found migrants who found themselves in completely extreme conditions. It was already starting to get dark, and the temperature dropped to almost zero degrees. Volunteers distributed blankets and hot tea to people.

After some time, the police arrived in the forest. Up to this point, volunteers have explained to the frozen migrants how to properly apply for asylum.

“We have about eight teams operating near the border and a total of about 40 people,” Anna Albot, a spokeswoman for the Polish Minority Rights Group and member of Grupa Granica, told The Guardian. – Whenever we receive calls from migrant families, we send a request to our teams and check who is closest to the place. People often ask for food, water, a doctor, or clothing. The other day I met a Syrian family who didn’t even have shoes. ”

Anna Chmielewska, coordinator of the Center for Assistance to Foreigners in Warsaw, noted that “it is difficult to work in the border zone for several reasons”. First, the Polish police stop the cars of the volunteers a few kilometers before the Kuznitsa checkpoint on the Polish-Belarusian border. The fact is that three kilometers from the border begins the territory on which the state of emergency is in force, so access to it is prohibited.

“We cannot get into this zone and help the people who are there,” she added. “Only local residents can do this.” According to her, volunteers only have the opportunity to contact migrants only when they can pass the border zone: “But not everyone succeeds in doing this. Winter is coming and people are not ready to stay outside in the cold day after day. We are afraid that bad weather will lead to more deaths. It’s heartbreaking for us. “

In addition, the activist said that border police officers often behave quite aggressively. “We are not doing anything illegal, but they make us feel like we are violators,” Khmelevska said. “Helping people is okay. But in the current situation we seem to be engaged in secret activities. “

According to a representative of another non-governmental Polish organization, Medycy na granicy (Doctors at the Border – MK), border guards periodically obstruct the provision of medical assistance to migrants.

On their official Facebook page, the volunteers reported that before going on another call, they found that the ambulance’s wheels had been deflated. In addition, the doctors found “people in uniform” at the service car, and an olive-colored car with registration numbers beginning with the letters denoting the off-road vehicles of the Polish army stood nearby, the report said.

The doctors added that they tried to talk to the people sitting in the car, but they left almost immediately. Then they turned to the Ministry of National Defense of Poland with a request to “urgently provide clarification regarding this shameful incident.”

The department gave a response almost immediately. “The soldiers of the Polish army have no relation to the damage to the ambulance at the border,” the ministry’s press service informed. “They have much more serious questions than the denial of fake news in the media space.”

At the same time, such situations do not lead volunteers astray. They continue to provide assistance to refugees. On their social networks, doctors posted a post in five languages ​​- English, French, Arabic, Persian and Kurdish – with the following content: “If you or someone from your family needs any humanitarian or medical assistance on the Polish-Belarusian border, write US. We will connect you with the right people. “

Those wishing to help migrants have to face not only opposition from the authorities. After one of the theaters in the city of Legnica began collecting gifts for refugees on the Polish-Belarusian border, it was attacked by haters on the Internet. “But there are more people willing to help,” says one of the initiators of the action.

In this regard, Polish volunteers are pleased to know that activists from Germany are trying to help migrants stranded on the Polish-Belarusian border. According to the Polish Internet resource Oko.press, a group of German volunteers came to Poland to deliver parcels for refugees to local organizations, show solidarity with immigrants and protest against the actions of the Polish authorities and the inaction of German politicians.

“We have free seats on the bus,” says one of the activists Ruben Neugebauer. “We could take people who need help with us. If only the German government would agree to this … We call on the German authorities to create humanitarian corridors on the Polish-Belarusian border. This should be one of the priorities of the government that is currently being formed in Germany. “

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Source From: MK

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