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PACE committee hails ‘resilience, courage and determination’ of exiled Belarusians, urges practical support for them

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

PACE’s Migration Committee has hailed the “resilience, courage and determination” of Belarusians who have been forced into exile by the repression of the Lukashenka regime – and urged states hosting them to take legal and practical steps to welcome them.

In a unanimously-approved draft resolution, based on a report by Paul Galles (Luxembourg, EPP/CD), the committee said “the Belarusian people are not the same as the Lukashenka regime”, and should not be treated in a discriminatory fashion because of the regime’s participation in the war against Ukraine.

It said it “can only be impressed by the work and initiatives of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, the very likely successful candidate against Aliaksandr Lukashenka in the 2020 elections”.

Most exiled Belarusians have “only one wish” – to return to a democratic Belarus – but until then the countries temporarily hosting them should “do their utmost to ensure that they can stay legally and are welcomed in dignified conditions”, the parliamentarians said.

They applauded Lithuania’s and Poland’s efforts to find legal and practical solutions to make Belarusians in exile more welcome, noting that more can be done and calling for “out of the box” solutions.

The committee made a series of practical recommendations to make legal entry and stay outside Belarus, and travel in the EU, easier for exiles and their families, as well as steps to keep them safe from reprisals, able to access their bank accounts and run businesses.

States and parliaments should support the democratic forces in exile, as well as civil society and lawyers, and encourage Belarusian education and culture in a number of ways, the parliamentarians added.

The report is due for plenary debate at the June session of the Assembly.