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Rapporteur discusses the challenges faced by Belarusians in exile during visit to Poland and Lithuania

Paul Galles discusses the challenges faced by Belarusians in exile during a visit to Poland and Lithuania

The challenges faced by Belarusians in exile was the focus of a fact-finding visit to Warsaw and Vilnius by Paul Galles (Luxembourg, EPP/CD), who is preparing a report on this topic for the Assembly.

In Vilnius he made the first ever visit by a Council of Europe representative to Belarus democratic opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, who underlined how important it was that an institution such as PACE was tackling the “essential yet overlooked” issue of the situation of Belarusians in exile.

In other meetings with representatives of Belarusian NGOs and businesses operating in exile, topics discussed included obtaining visas, legalising the right of residence, access to education and employment, academic freedom and non-discrimination.

In Warsaw, Mr Galles met members of the Belarusian Youth Hub and the Association of Belarusian Businesses Abroad (ABBA) as well as representatives of Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Office for Foreigners, members of the Sejm – including the Chairperson of the Polish-Belarus bilateral group in parliament – and the Governor of the Mazovia region.

In Vilnius, as well as meeting Ms Tsikhanouskaya, he met representatives of the Lithuanian Interior and Foreign Affairs Ministries, and civil society organisations.

The Rapporteur also had the opportunity to hold an exchange of views with the pupils and teachers of the Franciskaus Skorinos Gymnasium, the only ten-class school operating in the Belarusian language outside Belarus, and the students and academic staff of the European Humanities University, the Belarus university in exile.

The report by Mr Galles is foreseen for discussion by the Assembly in June.