For several days now, the eyes of the world have been focused on Afghanistan, where an unprecedented seizure of power by the Taliban has taken place. We are witnessing dramatic scenes at airports, as thousands of people try to flee the country. Other states are evacuating their representatives, countrymen and Afghans who work with them. The Polish government has also announced the issuing of 45 humanitarian visas for Afghan citizens, and the sending of airplanes to take them to Poland.
However, only a very small number of Afghan women and men whose lives are now threatened will flee to safety on government planes. Some have already left their homes on their own, seeking refuge in other countries, including Europe, and others are likely to follow.
Meanwhile, the Polish authorities have long blocked refugees from crossing our eastern border and applying for international protection at border crossings. For this reason, some people – with the cynical support of the Belarusian regime – are forced to cross the border illegally, which puts them at risk of imprisonment and deportation.
At the same time, Poland is currently changing its regulations on granting international protection, depriving those who crossed the so-called green border of the possibility to apply for refugee status.
In view of this situation, we appeal to the Polish authorities to:
- enable Afghans and Afghans fleeing on their own, who express the will to seek international protection, to immediately apply for refugee status in Poland, including at Polish border crossings – in accordance with current Polish and international law;
- to stop working on legal changes that would result in human rights violations, including in particular deprivation of the possibility to seek protection in Poland and facilitation of deportation of persons fleeing persecution;
- end the detention of Afghan women and men, which is currently taking place; these persons should be placed in reception centers run by the Office for Foreigners, rather than being deprived of freedom due to their migration status by being placed in detention centers run by the Border Guard;
- Take all necessary measures to ensure the safe departure from Afghanistan of all persons at risk of Taliban repression, including: expediting the issuance of visas, ensuring relocation and resettlement, and suspending all deportations and forced returns;
- Take rapid steps to prepare for the reception of refugee women and men in Poland, in cooperation with local authorities.
We strongly emphasize that the obligation of the Republic of Poland – our authorities and us, as citizens – is to help those in need, especially when their lives are in danger. This is not only an obligation imposed by law, but above all a gesture arising from a sense of solidarity and common decency.
Moreover, as a member of the international community, Poland should work to restore peace in Afghanistan, calling for the observance of international human rights law, the protection of civilians and the cessation of retaliatory attacks.