Protesting Chechen Refugees Stopped at Polish-German Border
On the afternoon of December 15, Polish police forcibly removed all 230 Caucasian asylum seekers who had taken over a train at the Polish-German border. The group wanted to travel to eastern French city Strasbourg, where they intended to sue Poland for the inhuman conditions, threats and violence refugees face there.
The group included citizens of Georgia and Russia (mostly Chechens and Ingush). After being denied permission to cross, they refused to leave the train, which had been bound for Dresden in eastern Germany. As a result, the train remained stuck in the Polish city of Zgorzelec, which lies just across a river from its German counterpart, Goerlitz. After negotiating with border guards, the group left the train under police escort.
Stanislav Dmitrievsky, director of the Russian-Chechen Friendship Society, said the group’s action was an act of desperation. The asylum seekers now face sanctions for violating border formalities.
Imran Ezhiev, a Chechen human rights worker and head of the Society of Russian Chechen Friendship, who was in touch with some of the refugees on the train, told: “We demand that they (refugees) be allowed to stay in Poland and that their living conditions are improved”. Ezhiev said among the detained were refugees from Russia’s Ingushetia region, who fled to Poland to escape spiralling violence over recent months.
“They can’t cross the border because they don’t have the necessary paperwork,” Anna Galon, border service spokeswoman of Poland.
She explained that under the terms of their asylum applications, the group members, who included women and children, were bound to remain on Polish soil.
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Andrzej Kremer defended Poland’s treatment of refugees. According him, Poland has accepted quite a big number of Chechen refugees and Poland’s refugee law is no different to that of other European countries. But it is known that until 2008, there a system which was calling as “Tolerance Right”, and now new system is similar to old one, but just gives to working right. Poland doesn’t give refugee status to Chechen asylum seekers in generally, they protect them with their special status and it doesn’t allow refugees to leave from Polish territory.
We must add a note that the protester asylum seekers may face either deportation or imprisonment for up to 3 years according to Polish law rules. Chechen human rights activist and journalist Mayrbek Taramov calls on human rights organisations to intervene in defence of the Caucasian refugees in Poland. EU countries need to revise the Schengen Agreement’s Dublin Convention and change their policy of “Russian gas for blood.”
In the train, there were around 30 Georgian asylum seekers. The flow of refugees from Georgia to Poland has increased throughout 2009. In May-August 2009, more than 3.000 Georgian citizens have asked for asylum in Poland. Over the same period in 2001-2008, only about 400-500 refugees arrived in Poland from Georgia. Most of the refugees arrive in Poland through the Terespol railway station on Poland’s border with Belarus. Since 2003, as many as 4.000-5.000 Chechen refugees have arrived annually in Poland. The number is increasing as the situation deteriorates in Chechnya.
Photos from the scene:
Video shots from the case: