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Instrumentalised migration pressure on the borders of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland with Belarus

Resolution 2404 (2021)

Parliamentary Assembly
Assembly debate on 30 September 2021 (30th sitting) (see Doc. 15382 rev, report of the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons, rapporteur: Ms Anne-Mari Virolainen). Text adopted by the Assembly on 30 September 2021 (30th sitting).
1. The Parliamentary Assembly is concerned by the unfolding situation of “hybrid attacks” by the Belarusian authorities resulting in increased pressures relating to migration and asylum at the Belarus border with Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. This is all the more worrying as it has been orchestrated by the Belarusian authorities in response to European Union sanctions against Belarus, which were imposed for harsh violations of human rights. The Assembly condemns any instrumentalisation of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers by States for political purposes.
2. The Assembly notes with concern that recent arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers have created significant challenges for Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, putting a strain on their capacity to receive migrants and refugees.
3. The Assembly, however, reiterates the obligations of all Council of Europe member States to uphold human rights and humanitarian principles as well as international law relating to refugees and the right to seek asylum. Member States should furthermore ensure the necessary humanitarian assistance to people in need of protection, paying special attention to the situation of vulnerable groups, including families with young children, unaccompanied and separated children and people with disabilities and special needs. In doing so they should also consider protection needs from the perspective of gender.
4. The Assembly considers that effective border management by Council of Europe member States should be accompanied by adequate responses to the rights of asylum seekers. Border management should be fully compliant with European and international law and in particular the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No. 5) and the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
5. The Assembly condemns the growing tendency to restrict the right to seek asylum of persons crossing a border irregularly and any practice by member States of refoulements of migrants and asylum seekers to third countries, where international protection needs may not be guaranteed. It recalls the obligation of member States to respect the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of collective expulsion of foreigners.
6. The Assembly considers that the European Union and its agencies should closely monitor the situation at the border and the actions by its member States that could lead to violations of the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers.
7. The Assembly is highly concerned that the situation at the European Union’s eastern border has provoked a new wave of anti-migrant rhetoric, which has resulted in countries being forced to build new fences in Europe to prevent the neighbouring authoritarian regime from instrumentalising migrants, asylum seekers and refugees for its political goals.
8. The Assembly welcomes the efforts of the European Union to reconsider its reception procedures and solidarity mechanism, including the resettlement solution in the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. The situation at the European Union’s eastern border has shown that the European Union’s directive 2001/55/EC on temporary protection should be revived in order to be used in exceptional situations where there is a mass influx of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees. It is also important to create a comprehensive migration risk-assessment algorithm allowing for the preparation of effective reaction strategies.
9. In response to the current situation at the border with Belarus, the Assembly calls on governments of member States of the Council of Europe to support Latvia, Lithuania and Poland by:
9.1 providing urgent financial and technical assistance to ensure the necessary protection of migrants, asylum seekers and refugees;
9.2 establishing effective support mechanisms for these countries so that they can ensure an efficient reception process, adequate accommodation, effective identification of people with special needs and timely access to information about the asylum procedure and social and other services for new arrivals while their applications for asylum are being processed through fair and prompt procedures.
10. The Assembly calls on the authorities in Belarus to:
10.1 stop the instrumentalisation of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, in particular those in a vulnerable situation, and stop facilitating travel to Belarus by third-country nationals under the false pretence of tourism;
10.2 take full responsibility, under applicable international law, for third-country nationals present in the territory of Belarus, especially those in vulnerable situations, and refrain from illegal actions such as taking away their travel documents or forcibly pushing them towards the border;
10.3 co-operate with its neighbours, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, as well as with the European Union, on cross-border arrangements in order to solve ongoing problems in terms of irregular migratory flows across these borders.
11. The Assembly also calls on the authorities in Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to:
11.1 provide access to asylum procedures to all those seeking international protection;
11.2 refrain from refoulements to Belarus and provide the necessary safeguards to ensure the human rights of those seeking entry to their territory;
11.3 ensure that detention of asylum seekers is only used as a last resort and that alternatives to detention are explored. When detention is resorted to, it should be carried out with all relevant safeguards, including an assessment of the circumstances of the individuals and their families. Children should never be detained, regardless of their migratory status;
11.4 in co-operation with the European Asylum Support Office, provide adequate reception facilities and accommodation for new arrivals – identifying people with special needs – and provide access to information about the asylum procedure and social and other services;
11.5 ensure that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and organisations providing humanitarian assistance and legal aid are provided with unhindered access to migrants, asylum seekers and refugees, including at the border;
11.6 despite the state of emergency, ensure that vulnerable groups, such as unaccompanied minors and survivors of torture, sexual violence and other forms of serious violence, are exempted from the accelerated asylum procedure and referred to more adequate and safer reception facilities, and ensure that those who need psychological support have access to specialist services;
11.7 guarantee that the return of migrants to third countries does not take place without sufficient safeguards for the rights of those being returned, and work with Belarus and the European Union to solve ongoing problems in terms of irregular migration flows across these borders.
12. The Assembly welcomes the support offered by the UNHCR to the countries concerned in order to provide legal and technical expertise on the reception, site management and processing of asylum applications, and encourages the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration to further strengthen their monitoring of situations of migratory pressure, in co-operation with other human rights organisations, in order to provide early warning of impending problems.
13. The Assembly proposes the creation, within the Council of Europe, of a permanent group or body to focus on the human rights situation in Belarus, one of the tasks of which will be monitoring the situation of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from Belarus.