Belarus: The human cost of the crackdown on dissent

An escalating crackdown on civil society following 2020’s disputed presidential election in Belarus – which saw Alexander Lukashenko claim victory – has already provoked international sanctions. Now, the country’s continued attacks on fundamental freedoms are exacting a significant human cost, as a migrant crisis unfolds on the country’s border with Poland.

In June 2021, President Lukashenko rejected EU calls to stop the flow of illegal migrants to the country’s border with the EU. This followed global powers imposing more sanctions against Belarusian officials in response to the removal and arrest of opposition journalist Roman Protasevich, from a grounded plane in Minsk.

A stream of migrants has flooded into Belarus since August after the government relaxed visa requirements for certain countries. By November, thousands of refugees, mainly from Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, were stranded at the Belarus-Poland border. Many became embroiled in violent clashes with Polish police. At least nine migrants died due to freezing conditions and a lack of humanitarian aid.

Published on 07-01-22. Read on here.