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

Paul Galles

PACE 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 resolution, based on a report by Paul Galles (Luxembourg, EPP/CD), the Assembly 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 was “impressed by the work and initiatives of the Office of Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and the United Transition Cabinet of Belarus, which aim at providing their compatriots with the services the regime deliberately withholds.”

“Thank you for distinguishing between the people and the regime,” said Ms Tsikhanouskaya, the leader of the democratic opposition in Belarus, addressing the Assembly as part of the debate. Belarusians abroad were grateful to the countries that have welcomed them, she pointed out, adding that they brought benefits to their host countries. “This is a visionary report […] and I urge you to vote for it, not only because Belarusians are suffering and deserve your help, but because by doing so, you will be making Europe safer.”

Most exiled Belarusians have “only one wish” – to return to a democratic Belarus – the parliamentarians said, 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.”

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 Assembly 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.