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Contents

Preamble 3
Summary 4
Statistics 6
Region of Origin 6
Age 7
The Number of Transit refugees in Brest 7
Family Composition 8
Professional Background 9
Causes of Flight 9
Schengen visa applications 10
Period of stay in Brest 10
Attempts to enter Poland. Statistics on entry permits 11
Incidents at the border and in Brest,
as well as other problems 12
Requests for help 14
Legal advice 14
Other activities 17

Foto by Roman Protasevich, euroradio.fm

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Preamble

This review is an interim report prepared on the basis of monitoring activities


of Human Constanta office in Brest with the participation of volunteers.
The review covers activities from January to June 2019.
Human Constanta works with modern human rights challenges in Belarus.
In particular, we are engaged in protection of rights of foreign citizens and
stateless persons. In September 2016 we launched a Mission to help transit
refugees in Brest.1 In March 2017, we opened an office in Brest to advise
foreign citizens and stateless persons. We monitor the state of affairs in Brest
and at the Terespol border crossing on a regular basis. So far we have issued
several issue-related reports on the situation at the border.2
From January to June 2019, we conducted a survey of people seeking asylum
in Poland, interviewed them at the railway station, provided information,
humanitarian aid and consulting assistance.

1
In this review, we interpret the word "refugee" from the perspective of international
law as "any person who, because of a well-founded fear of being persecuted for
reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular
social group, is outside the country of his/her nationality and is unable or unwilling
to benefit from the protection of that country because of such fear", https://www.
unrefugees.org/refugee-facts/what-is-a-refugee/
2
Previous reports are available at https://www.humanconstanta.by/publikacii

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Summary

1. During this period, we conducted 140 monitoring activities at


the railway station, an average of 23 monitoring activities per
month. We were able to interview 52 respondents in detail.1
(Number of monitoring activities at the railway station in Brest)
From January to June 2019. 140 within 6 months, 23 per month

2. Polish border guards continue to accept applications for


international protection from persons crossing the border
from Belarus arbitrarily. From January to June 2019 transit
refugees tried to ask for international protection in Poland
coming from Brest at least 1604 times. Only in 136 cases such
applications were accepted.

3. On average, one family per day is allowed entry, but in the


first half of the year we recorded 26 days when no one was
allowed to enter at the Brest–Terespol border checkpoint.

1
"Respondent” in this report means a family or a single person.

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In 2018 we recorded a total of 20 days when nobody was
allowed in.

4. At least 100 transit refugees (at least 10 families, including


singles) were permanently in Brest during this period.
In April–June, the number of families slightly increased.

5. In our opinion, the Republic of Belarus is not safe for people


from the North Caucasus (77 % of transit refugees in Brest
were from there within this period). At the same time,
Poland violates legal procedures by denying them entry and
consideration of an application for international protection.

6. Refugees do not have a distinct age and social trend. Most fled
with children and had a profession in their native country.

7. Respondents state persecution, threats and torture as main


causes for flight.

8. Most of the respondents needed assistance. During this period,


we mainly received requests for legal advice.

9. Polish border guards are obviously inhumane and discriminatory


towards refugees. On the Belarusian side, unjustified reduction
of the period of stay for persons who made 10 or more attempts
continued.

10. 142 people received legal advice. The main topics of consultations
within this period were obtaining the refugee status or the
residence permit in the Republic of Belarus, drawing up an
application for international protection and explaining how the
interview at the border is usually conducted.

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Statistics

Region of Origin

Thirty-nine or 75 % out of 52 respondents are coming from Chechnya. There


was also one family from another region of Russia, Dagestan. Apart from
that, throughout this period we interviewed 7 families from Tajikistan, 3 from
Ingushetia, 1 from Kyrgyz Republic, 1 from Kazakhstan, and 1 from Syria.

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Age

Thirty out of all respondents refused to reveal their age. The others were aged
from 19 to 53. No distinct age trend was revealed.

The Number of Transit refugees in Brest

Our numbers of transit refugees are based on the number of attempts to


get to Poland. Yet, there are families who wait for a long time before making
an attempt. That is why the number of those residing in Brest is always bigger
than the number of those making attempts to go to Poland.
On average, in January 2019, from 1 to 13 families were daily boarding
Brest–Terespol train. In February the number of those attempting to get to
Poland decreased to 1–7 families. In March the situation was mostly the same:
minimum 3 and maximum 11 families attempted to cross the border every day.
From April 2019 the number of families making the attempt has significantly
increased. In average throughout these months 12 families were getting on the
train daily. The maximal number of such families in one day reached 21 in May.

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Family Composition

Thirteen respondents (25 %), mostly men, did not have a child. There also
were women fleeing with their under-aged children from domestic violence
and persecution by husbands. 
During the interviews people specified their companions. In total the number
of respondents and their family members amounted to 189 from whom 84
were adults and 105 were under-aged children. Sometimes there were families
of two, but mostly there were families with children. On average one family
had 2–3 children. Moreover, sometimes big families with children were one-
parent families. Nine is the maximal number of people composing one family
registered so far.

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Professional Background

Thirty-seven out of 52 respondents (71 %) specified their professions and told


that they were working before fleeing, 15 refused to answer. Three persons
were entrepreneurs. The others named various professions: housewife,
journalist, construction worker, IT-specialist, sales manager, health worker,
driver, hairdresser, etc. One respondent stated retired and one — student.

Causes of Flight

All the 52 respondents agreed to specify their fleeing cause. In comparison


to  the previous period, the number of people identifying, at least in broad
terms, causes of their fleeing has increased. In 39 cases the flight was caused
by the threats and persecution, 4 respondents stated tortures to be the main
cause, 1 respondent named blood revenge. Throughout this reporting period
we did not register any economic causes of fleeing, but we did register 2 cases
of women fleeing with their children from domestic violence. One woman
identified persecution as the main reason, her husband persecuted her and
threatened to take away their children. The second woman told that her
husband physically abused her on a regular basis. Also, one respondent told
that he is searching for his family, and one stated family reunion as the reason
of his fleeing.

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Schengen visa applications

10 respondents (19.2 %) informed that they had applied for a Schengen visa
and were rejected. The remaining 42 respondents reported that they had not
applied for a Schengen visa.

Period of stay in Brest

All the respondents had different periods of stay in Brest, from several days to
4 months.

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Attempts to enter Poland. Statistics on entry permits

The number of attempts depends on the people’s period of stay in Brest. Some
of them go to Terespol every day but on average once in 2–3 days. The largest
number of attempts for one family that we recorded within this period — 36.
During each entry attempt, border guards put a crossed stamp in a passport.
Consequently, foreign passports quickly run out of pages, and a visit to the
consulate for a new passport can be unsafe.
Upon the return of the train Terespol–Brest, the volunteers of the organization
ask the ones who get off the train how many families took this trip and how
many of them crossed the border. A number of people answer the questions but
the information is still approximate. Every day Polish border guards permitted
entry for one family or a person on a random basis while the rest of the people
returned to Brest on a train. In general, within this period we recorded at least
1604 attempts, of which only 136 were successful. On minimum 26 days during
6 months border guards didn’t allow anybody to enter. Among them, 9 days
were in January and 11 in February. From March to June we recorded only
6 days when nobody was allowed to enter. While within the whole 2018, we
recorded only 20 days when nobody was allowed to cross the border.

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Incidents at the border and in Brest,
as well as other problems

During the interviews, we asked to tell us about any incidents which occurred
to the refugees in Terespol or in Brest. We were told about 19 incidents which
took place in the territory of Poland. For example, Polish border guards were
rude to people; sometimes they talked in raised voices and insulted, mocked
or mistreated people; didn’t take documents and refused to listen. Within
the described period, we also recorded two cases when people at the border
got sick. In the first case, a woman was taken to hospital in an ambulance.
According to respondents, in several hours she was returned to the territory
of the Republic of Belarus on another train. In the second case, a pregnant
woman felt sick at the border. She was also taken to hospital. On the next day,
she was taken to the border and “put into a car driven by an old man with an
order to take her to the station”.

Incidents which occurred in Brest require special attention. Migration authorities


still resort to reduction of stay period. In comparison with the previous period,
the frequency of this practice is decreasing. Within this period, we recorded
not more than 8 cases. We will continue to take all the necessary measures
to ensure that the reduction of the period of stay is used only as a measure
to the citizens who violated the regulations of the stay in the territory of the
Republic of Belarus, rather than to randomly chosen transit refugees.

During the reporting period, with our assistance, two complaints were made
regarding 2 cases when the period of stay in Belarus was reduced. In one of the
cases, a woman went through Terespol for the purpose of family reunification
with her husband who stayed in Poland on a legal basis. In accordance with
regulation No. 604/2013 (the Dublin Regulation), the country where her partner
(husband) was identified as a refugee is responsible for the consideration of
her application for the provision of political asylum. Despite this fact, the Polish
side refused to permit entry for this woman.

From their side, employees of the Citizenship and Migration Department of


Leninsky District reduced this woman’s period of stay in the Republic of Belarus
referring to Provision 9 of Article 30 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus On
the Legal Status of Foreign Citizens and Stateless Persons. However, the stay
of foreigners in the Republic of Belarus for the purpose of applying for asylum
in Poland cannot be considered as “illegal migration” within the meaning of

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Article 30 of the Law of the Republic of Belarus On the Legal Status of Foreign
Citizens and Stateless Persons. The definition of illegal migration includes illegal
transit through the territory of the Republic of Belarus, i.e. violation of the visa
regime or period of stay in the Republic of Belarus. In this case, the foreign
woman had the registration in the Republic of Belarus; a visa for entry/exit
from the territory was not required. Foreigners stay in Brest legally subject to
bilateral or multilateral visa-free agreements between the Republic of Belarus
and the states of their citizenship. Thus, violation by the Republic of Poland of
its obligations to accept asylum applications can be considered as “unforeseen
circumstances preventing further movement of a foreigner” (Provision 11 of
the Decree of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Belarus of January 19,
2006 No. 63 On the Approval of the Rules of Transit of Foreign Citizens and
Stateless Persons through the Territory of the Republic of Belarus).

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Requests for help

During the interviews, we also asked respondents whether they needed


assistance. 31 respondents indicated that they needed help. Most frequently
we received requests for legal assistance. Some of the families asked for help
with food and children’s stuff. Within this period, we had only one request for
help with medicines.

Legal advice

In total, during the first 6 months, 142 consultations (including the one with
a family on several issues) were held. Most common are questions on the
possibility to get refugee status or residence permit in the Republic of Belarus,
as well as clarification of the necessary grounds for that (there were 25 such
consultations). In addition, refugees (16 individuals) were interested in the
employment procedures of the Republic of Belarus. In this case, we explain
them in detail on which grounds they can be eligible for the legalization in the
Republic of Belarus.

One of the most important issues is the preparation for the procedure of
application for the Belarusian temporary residence permit (testing, fingerprints
registering, obtaining a certificate of criminal record, etc.)

Besides, people were concerned about family reunification, appealing against


the reduction of the period of stay, help with the registration in the Republic
of Belarus and translation of documents into Polish.

In comparison with the previous period, the number of families interested in


the proper preparation of documents required for the interview (including the
application for international protection) has increased. We helped to prepare
at least 30 applications for international protection.

The interview at the border is the only moment when a refugee has an
opportunity to speak to the people who would determine whether to accept
or not his/her application to get a refugee status. It’s important to prepare
the application for international protection properly because the applicant can
understand better which questions and for which reason will be asked during
the interview. Additionally, the contents of the questionnaire allow a refugee
to take into account issues which are essential to be mentioned during the

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interview with border guards. Considering the emotional and physical state
of people who daily go through this procedure, possessing the documents
prepared in advance helps them feel more confident (according to refugees)
and gives hope that a structured narrative would increase their chance to pass
the border. In addition, we tell people what the interview is like. Within this
period, we provided legal advice on this issue to at least 24 individuals.

Citizens who decided to submit an appeal against the denial to cross the border
contacted us twice. Being misinformed and afraid, people sign the documents
stating that they are refused to cross the border due to the absence of a visa.
However, in accordance with both international and Polish national legislation,
an individual applying for a refugee status does not need a visa. But people
automatically continue to sign the papers which recognize them as “tourists”.
Our task is to explain to refugees their legitimate rights and offer a possibility
to submit an appeal against the denial of border guards. It should be noted
that only some of the refugees use this option because of the fear of possible
negative consequences of an appeal against the border guards’ actions.

During the reporting period, we also held 54 “basic consultations”. A “basic


consultation” includes informing people about our office and services (legal
advice, humanitarian aid, organization of workshops). It’s important to
understand that we hold basic consultations for refugees several times at
different points of their stay. Initially we only give a business card and tell
about ourselves when a client does not really want to get acquainted. In a few
days, we have a more detailed conversation. As a result, it looks like a small
interview which includes legal advice on the following issues:
1. Provision of reliable information on the border crossing: how
to go to Poland and how to get a lawyer who will help to cross
the border?
2. Questions regarding the reduction of a period of stay and rules
of stay after crossing the border Belarus — Russia — Belarus.
3. Employment in the Republic of Belarus and legalization.
4. Additional legal advice through the Refugee Counselling
Service.
5. Help to establish contacts with human rights organizations
from Poland.

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Other activities

Besides, within this period we held workshops for children and their parents,
where children could paint, mould and do simple crafts, drink tea with sweets
and talk to each other. Additionally, during workshops coaches talked about
legal issues, rights, European family culture and traditions. We believed that
such meetings would help children to get back the sense of security, play and
talk, as well as help mothers and fathers to be prepared for further integration.
During this period, we held 13 workshops visited by 98 people, 42 of them
were adults (parents), 29 girls and 27 boys.

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Free legal consultations
Brest and Brest oblast
Monday — Friday
10.00 — 18.00

Mobile/WhatsApp
+375 29 370 4556

M bresthc@gmail.com

humanconstanta.by
info@humanconstanta.by

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