Council of Europe official comments on border situation

All Council of Europe member states (of which Latvia is one) are obliged to fully respect the rights of refugees, migrants and asylum seekers - even if another state directly encourages migrants to cross the border. Arrivals cannot simply be sent back without an adequate procedure and risk assessment for these people, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe Dunja Mijatović said August 16 in comments to Rus.lsm.lv.

However, despite being ostensibly about the situation at the Latvian-Belarusian and Lithuanian-Belarusian borders, Mijatovic does not actually name any specific states in her comments, which are reproduced below:

“When faced with challenges due to sudden arrivals of refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, regardless of their origin, it is crucial that Council of Europe member states fully uphold their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the Refugee Convention and other international instruments to which they are bound.

The whole reason for having these international instruments is to help states do the right thing even in very challenging circumstances. This means ensuring that those arriving are not returned without a proper procedure with adequate safeguards, including in relation to  examination of any asylum claims and assessment of any risks they may face in the country of return.

In the current, highly politicised, situation around migration, it is especially important that European states provide a strong, principled response, by ensuring the human rights of those arriving do not become subordinate to geopolitical considerations. This also applies in the case of any regrettable attempt by states, whether members of the Council of Europe or not, to actively encourage vulnerable people to cross borders whilst knowing this leaves them in a humanitarian or human rights emergency and adds significant burdens on the receiving member state”.

The flow of migrants across Latvia's border with Belarus increased sharply in early August. Earlier, a similar situation arose on the border of Belarus and Lithuania. Latvian and Lithuanian politicians have repeatedly stated that the use of migrants is a manifestation of a hybrid war on the part of Alexander Lukashenko's regime, and Lukashenko himself has repeatedly threatened to flood Europe with migrants in revenge for sanctions imposed on his regime. 

Numerous sources pointed to the organization of "direct deliveries" of migrants from Iraq and to the direct involvement of the Belarusian security forces in "pushing" them to Latvia and Lithuania.

As previously reported by LSM, similar comments were made by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

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