On Thursday, Poland’s parliament enacted legislation that, according to human rights experts, attempts to justify the detention of migrants at the country’s borders, in violation of the country’s international obligations.
In what Warsaw and Brussels think is a type of hybrid warfare aimed to put pressure on the EU over sanctions imposed on Minsk, Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia have reported large surges in migrants from countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq attempting to reach their borders from Belarus.
Human rights organizations have chastised Poland’s populist government for its treatment of migrants at the border, alleging several illegal detentions. Since the influx of migrants, six people have been discovered dead near the border.
Border guards claim they are following government procedures that were modified in August and are now put into law. To take effect, President Andrzej Duda, a close supporter of the ruling nationalists, must sign the bill.
The revisions include a mechanism through which a person caught illegally crossing the border might be compelled to leave Polish territory if the local Border Guard head makes a decision.
The order may be appealed to the commander of the Border Guard, but this does not suspend its execution.
Additionally, the bill allows the chief of the Office of Foreigners to disregard an application for international protection by a foreigner immediately caught after illegally crossing the border.
Under international law, migrants have a right to claim asylum and it is forbidden to send potential asylum-seekers back to where their lives or well-being might be in danger.
The EU’s home affairs commissioner has said EU countries need to protect the bloc’s external borders, but that they also have to uphold the rule of law and fundamental rights.
Critics such as Poland’s Human Rights Ombudsman and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights say the new law does not guarantee effective recourse for people – migrants or refugees – seeking international protection.
“If there are people who have a legitimate request to seek asylum, there should be a way to allow that to happen,” ODIHR director Matteo Mecacci told Reuters.
“I understand there are also security concerns…but security concerns cannot completely overrun the need for international protection.”