Poland |Vice-right commissioner: "They are beaten like the animals"

Poland |Vice-right commissioner: "They are beaten like the animals"

Poland |Vice-right commissioner: "They are beaten like the animals"

Hanna Machińska has access to the restricted area on the border with Belarus.An interview with the Polish Vice Commissioner for Human Rights about a Life like in War.

Hanna Machińska is extremely stressful at the moment, but she takes an hour for the interview with T-Online in Warsaw.The 70-year-old lawyer belongs to the office of the so-called "Ombudsman" in Poland, she is a deputy commissioner for human rights.The office, which is even mentioned in the constitution, should ensure that the humanitarian standards in the country are observed.

Machińska was one of the few people in the restricted area on the border with Belarus.A conversation about their experiences - and about what to do now.

T-online: Ms. Machińska, how angry are you on Alexander Lukashenko?

Hanna Machińska: Erst einmal sind wir sehr besorgt über die Situation, die Lukaschenko hier erzeugt hat.One should not forget: this is not an abstract mass on the border, but these are individuals, individual people with each of their own history, who are now there.I can already say: This is the biggest crisis since 1989.

What do you do to obtain the crisis?

As an ombudsman, we repeatedly comment on the legal framework of the emergency imposed here.We are in discussion with various individual refugees and we also have various legal instruments to contact the public prosecutor's office on the case of violations of the law on the basis of the criminal code.

Do you also become active in the home countries of the refugees?

We try it.We have asked the Foreign Ministry to inform future migrants from the Arab and African countries such as the Congo or Cameroon about the great dangers here at the border: that it is currently illegal to cross the border.In addition, we also asked the Ministry to start an information campaign in the areas where the refugees come from: it takes information, that is vital.You are a political journalist: How much do you know about what is happening in the blocking area?

Almost nothing, journalists have no access.

See you, you feel like most people in Poland: it is practically nothing out of your way outside.And we, who we as commissioners have access, must not pass on all information by law..But we inform about the areas where we can - and show how dangerous the situation is.What do you think, how much greater the ignorance in the home countries of the refugees is!The people believe that they can just come to Poland and stay in European countries.Only on site do they realize that this is a mistake.That even ends fatally for some.

Hanna Machińska in conversation with T-Online: "How much do you know about what is happening in the blocking area?"(Source: Michael Körner for T-Online)

The refugees have no idea of what they expect here in Belarus and Poland at the border?

That's the way it is.Some are students who can orient themselves and may have been able to guess what they are getting into.But most of the people at the border have practically not enjoyed any education.Many cannot even write their own names, at most one sentence.They simply climbed on the plane without being aware of the risks and difficulties.For them, enlightenment must first be created so that they do not run anymore.

What can you report on the situation in the border strip?

I can't tell everything because we are not allowed to speak in detail about the emergency area in the restricted zone.But there are hundreds of examples that show how tense the situation is.We found out about a young mother in the border area who wrown up a sponge and mixed the dirty water with the milk powder for your child.She knew what she was doing: it was the safe death for the baby, but she couldn't help it, the child was hungry.


Many pregnant women are in an extremely critical situation due to dramatic struggles with Belarusian soldiers.Sometimes they are now being cared for at Caritas stations, but overall there is still too little help.Do you know what I pay attention to when I meet the refugees in the border area?

On the clothes?

The shoes. The shoes! Diese sind nass, oft durchgelaufen, die Menschen frieren dann sprichwörtlich von der Basis ihres Körpers an.Of course we also bring clothes into it, but only a few people are allowed to go into the restricted area.Fortunately, the Red Cross was recently able to help some refugees under our protection, we brought the helpers through the police controls.

Hanna Machińska in front of her office in Warsaw: "There are hundreds of examples that show how tense the situation is."(Source: Michael Körner for T-Online)

How do you find the people there?The Polish forests are very extensive.

It is very, very difficult, that's completely right.The refugees are strolling through the forest, they are almost invisible.Some intentionally make up their flashlights so that they cannot be found by the patrolling police officers.The residents play a major role, they can also go to the border area: the normal population helps the refugees where they can.And sometimes the aid organizations that are gradually allowed to go into the zone.From time to time there is hope.

Polen | Vize-Menschenrechtskomissarin:

Do tell.

Two weeks ago we met a father with his daughter in the forests at night, they were part of a larger family.They had tried together over a dozen times to cross the border to Poland, but they were always sent back.Then they lost themselves and the father was alone with the daughter.The daughter, a 15-year-old girl, told me that she wanted to go to a Polish school first and then study in Harvard.She told me that at night, in the middle of the forest. Unbelievable, oder?

And then?

We brought the father to the next border station with his daughter and, as with a miracle, the rest of the family stood there.It may sound small, but it was incredible.Sometimes there is a happy ending.Even one of the lying soldiers cried, real tragedies take place here.Because you have to say clearly: For the Belarusian soldiers, the refugees are no people: they are beaten like the animals.And they rush dogs on them.

They are driven to the border, and if they make it over, also pushed back by Polish forces.

Yes, Push-Back is called this method.That sounds so harmless, but to be honest, I can hardly imagine it - although of course I almost experienced it.Push back, do you know what that means?So the crying families sit on the forest floor.And the Polish military and the Belarussians will return so violently towards the border that they will not try any further attempt in the future.Seriously: How brutal does that have to be?You feel reminded of darkest times.

You speak of the Second World War.

I belong to the first generation that was born after the war.The situation cannot be compared directly to the Second World War, but: people are wrong in the dark, between the trees.And again they are afraid of the military, hunting for them.

Hanna Machińska in her office in Warsaw: "And again they are afraid of the military, hunting for them.."(Source: Michael Körner for T-Online)

However, the Polish government is somewhat relentless: more and more soldiers are being moved to the border.

Naturally.Basically, the state has to protect the borders, that's right too.But we must not forget human rights.For us as an ombudsman, the border does not contradict human protection.We have to check the individual cases carefully and then decide.And we need more international support in this crisis.

For example from Frontex, the EU Agency for Border Protection?

Among other things.A representative of Frontex was recently led to the border: he was allowed to look at it briefly and then had to go again.We need significantly more influence from Frontex.It is good that the Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe will come on Monday.And basically it would also be desirable if representatives of the United Nations come to the region.

Why doesn't the Polish government simply let people go into the country and then distribute them through Europe?

You have to ask the government.That would probably tell you: if we do that, then the next wave of refugees begins and everything is no longer to be stopped.I would have a different solution.


The migrants earn individual procedures, you shouldn't all over a comb.A strict policy of rejection only leads people into the trap.But if you can present and prove the relevant documents that you really need protection, you can stay in Poland.

How does the Polish population feel about the refugees?

Not as critical as you could believe.As far as I know, many Poles are horrified by which conditions are right in front of our border.I already had talks with representatives of the Polish hotel industry: They told us that they would very much like to provide training positions that want to organize accommodation and formation of migrant families.Both churches, the Protestant and the Catholic, also called for a kind of "humanitarian corridor" to be placed in the blocking zone.And the migrant families also want to support various prominent actors. Naturally gibt es auch die Nationalisten, für die Flüchtlinge immer eine Bedrohung darstellen – aber das ist nicht die Mehrzahl.

Is there a chance that journalists can still go to the restricted zone to report on the conditions there?

There are cautious signals in this direction, but nothing is yet certain.And of course we have been committed to the fact that the media can finally report.But it is even more important that aid organizations such as the Red Cross, doctors without borders and doctors at the border finally get extensive access to the area.Because they can really help people and that is bitterly necessary.If you look into people's faces, you can never forget these pictures.And do you know what the Polish government is now planning?

To build a wall to the transition to the border to Belarus.

Exactly.It's incredible.The wall is not a solution!The solution is decent procedures for migrants, nothing else.

Ms. Machińska, thank you very much for this conversation.

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