Thursday

2nd Dec 2021

EU Commission: laws allowing Belarus pushbacks need changes

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The European Commission will likely demand Poland, Latvia and Lithuania tweak recent migration laws in response to the ongoing Belarus border confrontation.

All three EU states have declared states of emergencies in respect to Belarusian tactics to shuffle people to the borders, triggering tensions and calls for tougher sanctions against the regime in Minsk.

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"We are in close contact, in dialogue with the three countries," European home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson told MEPs in the civil liberties committee on Tuesday (9 November).

"And for us, in some cases, we are still in assessment but I think that we will ask for amendments in some of the legislations," she said.

She did not say when they intend to demand the respective changes or on which specific points.

But the comments were made on broader concerns over illegal pushbacks of migrants and prospective asylum seekers back into Belarus.

The commissioner had in the past said that "pushbacks should never be normalised."

Of the three EU member states, Poland in October adopted a law which effectively legalises such pushbacks.

Lithuania had over the summer amended its aliens law, allowing for collective expulsions in some cases.

On Tuesday, its parliament declared a state of emergency at its borders, allowing border guards to use "mental coercion" and "proportional physical violence" to prevent people from entering through Belarus.

Latvia also uses similar tactics in zones where it has declared a state of emergency.

According to EU law, member states are required to provide admission in order to assess individual claims for asylum.

The commission has been trying to balance calls for the respect of EU law, while blaming the autocratic Belarus leadership under Alexander Lukashenko for "weaponising" migrants.

Johansson also pressed and repeated her calls for greater transparency along the Polish border with Belarus.

"What we need is more transparency," she said.

Warsaw has imposed an exclusion zone at the border, banning NGOs and journalists from entering.

She also noted, unlike Lithuania, Poland has yet to allow in EU agencies like Frontex or Easo, the European Asylum Support agency.

Poland currently has some 12,000 soldiers at its 400km border with Belarus, on top of scores of police officers.

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