‘They don’t rape cows’… Tragic plight of refugees on Poland’s border

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A tragic scene on Poland’s eastern borders represented a human dilemma, and posed a question whose answer would be bitter anyway.

A father wanders in the rain-soaked forest, cuddling his sick daughter. Three days passed, during which he almost did not taste the taste of food, while the cold almost froze everything around him. He was wet from head to toe, shivering in the face of a terrible choice.

He is an Iraqi Kurd, identified by the New York Times by his first name, Karwan. His two-year-old daughter suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy. The father wrapped her in a thin coat to try to protect her from the cold, but she needed urgent medical attention.

Krawan drove his family across the border from neighboring Belarus, but now he’s reached a forested area guarded by hundreds of Polish soldiers and border guards.

The grieving Iraqi has no choice but to make a humane choice dripping with cruelty: Should he seek medical help from nearby security men, which inevitably means sending him back to Belarus and ending his desperate escape to Europe? Or does he leave his liver on that condition that may lead to her death at any moment?

A Polish activist and a delegation to the area to help told him, “I can call an ambulance for you, but the border guards will come too,” but he was confused in search of an answer.

Without a will, the Karawan family found themselves at the center of “geopolitical” skirmishes between Belarus and Poland, which led to a new humanitarian disaster for Europe.

In recent weeks, at least 5 people who crossed the border illegally into Poland died, some from hypothermia and exhaustion, according to Polish authorities, while three others were rescued at the last minute from drowning in a swamp, according to the American newspaper.

“A lot of people will die as the weather gets worse,” says Polish activist Petor Bistrianen. “Our government treats these people worse than criminals who are taken to prison.. as if they are not human beings, just rubbish being disposed of.. what is the plan.. killing people ?”

According to the New York Times, there is strong evidence that Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is using immigrants to punish the European Union, after the latter imposed sanctions on his country following a crackdown following a questionable presidential election.

According to the “revenge plan,” migrants, some of whom are fleeing poverty in Africa and wars in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, are allowed to enter Belarus, and then encouraged to cross into Poland, a member of the European Union, in the hope of later transiting to the rich continent.

However, the Polish government, bent on turning away refugees and migrants under economic claims, is countering this with tight security on its eastern border, declaring it a “no-go area for all but residents” in an apparent attempt to keep the eyes of the media and humanitarian organizations away.

While opinion polls indicate that the majority of Poles support their government’s approach, the Polish authorities have recently begun to confront opponents of its policy with a counter policy of “demonizing immigrants”, even portraying them as “terrorists” and “sexually degraded to the point of child abuse and animal rape.” .

But that policy began to backfire, after it drew boos from a number of officials, as well as the Catholic Church, an influential force in Poland that rarely criticizes the government, but its head openly considered it “damaging for the government to refer to every refugee as a terrorist, or perpetrator of a sexual offence.

In a detailed report, Amnesty International last week documented how Polish border guards held 32 Afghan asylum-seekers “in appalling conditions for weeks”, before forcibly returning them to Belarus in violation of international law.

While the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights said that “Poland is carrying out illegal operations to push back migrants and return them collectively at its border with Belarus.”

The Polish deputy commissioner for human rights also denounced the treatment of asylum seekers as a “scandal” that showed “the darkest possible picture of Poland”.

Warsaw considers, according to statements carried by the German “Deutsche Welle” channel, that “the situation on the border is difficult and dangerous (…) and such decisions must be taken to ensure the security of Poland and the European Union.”

It says more than 11,000 people tried to enter illegally from Belarus in August and September, compared to just 120 for the whole of last year.

The surge began this summer after the European Union imposed sanctions on Belarus for forcing a passenger plane carrying a dissident to land. Lukashenko’s government initially directed the refugees towards Lithuania, and later turned their destination south towards the Polish border, after Lithuania built a barrier on its border.

Poland later followed the same tactics by erecting coils of razor wire on its borders and strengthening existing barriers, emulating Hungary’s policies during the height of the migrant crisis in 2015.

While the EU, which does not want a repeat of that crisis and another wave of popular sympathy with populist anti-immigration politicians, supports these policies, it has not been without surprising “excesses”.

A few days ago, Poland’s Interior Minister, Mariusz Kaminski, sparked outrage in liberal circles, and the annoyance of some supporters of the ruling party, when he held a press conference last week, during which he claimed to be a picture taken from a mobile phone showing an immigrant “raping a cow.”

TVP, a state television station, headlined its coverage of the minister’s briefing: “He (the immigrant) raped a cow…and wanted to enter Poland…Details of migrants at the border.”

Then it quickly became clear that the offensive image had nothing to do with immigrants, but rather a pornographic movie available on the Internet, and it included a horse, not a cow.

Poland has taken in hundreds of asylum seekers airlifted from Afghanistan since the Taliban took power in August, but hostility to migrants slipping across the border has been a constant feature of the country’s ruling Law and Justice party, according to the New York Times.

In 2015, before the elections that brought him to power, the party leader described immigrants as people carrying “all kinds of parasites”.

However, many in Poland see what the Minister of the Interior has done “too much”.

“If anyone else did what he did, they would be in prison for showing crudely inciting images of ethnic hatred,” says Marek Nazarko, mayor of Michalow, a town close to the Belarus border.

Nazarko denounced Kamensky’s talk about “besieged eastern Polish cities” by “sexual perverts from Belarus”, calling them “despicable lies”.

The mayor, a former police officer, continued, “These people are not criminals and have not disrupted order in any way in my town…They are peaceful and desperate people who just want to cross into a better life.”

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