Anhaltendes Leid an der EU-Außengrenze Polens

Seit fast drei Jahren befinden sich Schutzsuchende im Wald an der polnisch-belarussischen Grenze in einem Limbo von Pushbacks und Gewalt. Mit dem Machtwechsel in Polen hatten viele gehofft, dass der neue Ministerpräsident Donald Tusk die menschenunwürdige Behandlung von Asylsuchenden im Grenzwald zu Belarus beenden wird. Stattdessen fordert er nun eine Stärkung des Grenzzauns, der zum Teil mit EU-Geldern finanziert werden soll, und schürt die Angst vor Belarus und den Schutzsuchenden, die zwischen den beiden Ländern festsitzen.

2021: Eine neue Fluchtroute nach Europa

Die neue Route entstand, weil der belarussische Machthaber Lukaschenko als Reaktion auf EU-Sanktionen im August 2021 damit angefangen hat, Menschen aus Syrien, dem Irak, Afghanistan und anderen Ländern nach Belarus einreisen zu lassen, damit sie an die EU-Außengrenze kommen. Lukaschenko hat die leidenden Menschen missbraucht, um Druck auf die EU auszuüben.

Polen wirft Belarus eine „Instrumentalisierung“ der Schutzsuchenden vor und erklärt die Geflüchteten zur Waffe eines „hybriden Krieges“. Damit rechtfertigt die Regierung in Warschau die anhaltende Militarisierung der Grenze und die menschenrechtswidrigen Pushbacks, die dort stattfinden. In diesem Zusammenhang wurde auch eine militärische Sperrzone errichtet, in der die Schutzsuchenden festsitzen und in der jede Hilfe von außen, egal ob von NGOs oder lokalen Anwohner:innen, kriminalisiert wird.

Nach wie vor viele Ankünfte

Auch wenn es weniger sind als 2021, kommen bis heute Schutzsuchende mit russischen oder belarussischen Visa an die polnische Grenze und versuchen, in die EU zu gelangen. Lokale Aktivist:innen von Grupa Granica helfen vor Ort und dokumentieren Menschenrechtsverletzungen. Bei einem Treffen diese Woche haben sie berichtet, dass jetzt im Frühjahr und Sommer die meisten Menschen versuchen, die Grenze im Białowieża-Wald zu überqueren. Der ist auch durch seine vielen Sümpfe und Moore gefährlich; im Winter wird es außerdem so kalt, dass viele Menschen erfrorene Gliedmaßen aufweisen oder gänzlich erfrieren. 

Seit Beginn der Krise sind mindestens 60 Menschen gestorben. Die Zivilgesellschaft geht allerdings von einer deutlich höheren Dunkelziffer aus. Allein im Zeitraum von Dezember 2023 bis April 2024 hat Grupa Granica mehr als 1.700 illegale Pushbacks, fünf Tote und 25 vermisste Menschen gezählt. Es wurde auch ein Kind von einer Mutter geboren, die versucht hat, aus Eritrea in die EU zu flüchten.

Pushbacks sind die Realität

Viele dieser Menschen äußern an der Grenze den Wunsch nach Asyl, wodurch ihnen nach europäischem und internationalem Recht ein rechtsstaatliches Asylverfahren zusteht, in dem ihr Schutzanspruch geprüft wird. In der Realität berichten die meisten stattdessen davon, dass sie gewaltsam zurückgewiesen werden, manche Betroffene bereits mehrfach. Dabei werden von Grenzschützer:innen auf beiden Seiten oft mutwillig Handys zerstört und Tränengas, Schlagstöcke und sogar Gewehre eingesetzt – auch gegenüber Kindern und Jugendlichen. Im Herbst 2023 hat ein heute 23-jähriger syrischer Schutzsuchender mit seinen Freunden versucht, von Belarus nach Polen zu fliehen. Ihm wurde dabei von einem polnischen Grenzschutzbeamten in den Rücken geschossen, „versehentlich“.

Neue Regierung, alte Taktiken?

Mit dem Regierungswechsel in Polen haben einige auch auf eine menschlichere Migrationspolitik an der Grenze zu Belarus gehofft, vor allem weil Donald Tusk ja eine Rückkehr zur Rechtsstaatlichkeit in Polen eingeleitet hat. Leider gilt diese Rückkehr zur Rechtsstaatlichkeit offensichtlich nicht für Schutzsuchende. Stattdessen hat Tusk diese Woche die Grenzregion zwischen Polen und Belarus besucht und eine Verstärkung des 2022 gebauten Grenzzauns versprochen. Der ist bereits jetzt 180 Kilometer lang und 5,5 Meter hoch, mit Stacheldraht verstärkt und elektronisch überwacht. Vor der anstehenden Europawahl bleibt Polen trotz neuer Regierung also bei einer restriktiven Migrationspolitik, ausgetragen auf dem Rücken von schutzsuchenden Menschen im Wald zu Belarus.

Ein Blick in die Zukunft

Hinzu kommt die endgültige Verabschiedung der sogenannten GEAS-Reform (mehr dazu hier auf meiner Website), in der vor allem die Krisenverordnung das Wort „Instrumentalisierung“ im Europäischen Recht kodifiziert. Das heißt, dass im Fall einer sogenannten „Instrumentalisierung“ von Schutzsuchenden durch Nicht-EU-Staaten die Grenzverfahren massiv ausgeweitet werden können. Asylsuchende können in solchen Fällen an den Außengrenzen inhaftiert werden. Auch wenn sich erst zeigen muss, wie diese Verordnung in der Praxis umgesetzt wird, laufen wir damit Gefahr, das Asylrecht weiter zu schwächen und anderen Mitgliedstaaten eine Grundlage für Menschenrechtsverletzungen an unseren Außengrenzen zu liefern.

Planned migration deal with Lebanon is "unworthy money suitcase policy"

I criticized the European Commission's planned migration agreement with Lebanon on DW. With such deals, the EU is making itself vulnerable to blackmail from unreliable partners.

Furthermore, the situation for refugees in Lebanon is extremely difficult. We should ensure that refugees there are better integrated and also facilitate resettlement to Europe. Human dignity must be at the heart of our cooperation.

Click here for the DW article.

Syria: The current humanitarian situation and possible EU action

Syria has been at war for 13 years. In 2011, the Syrian revolution was violently crushed by dictator Bashar al-Assad as part of the Arab Spring. Iran and Russia support the Assad regime, which is internationally ostracized for brutal human rights violations. Half a million people have already been killed, 13 million people have been displaced – more than half of them live outside Syria. The majority of Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries such as the Turkey (3.1 million people), Lebanon (785,000 people) and Jordan (640,000 people) found refuge. The conflict has been increasingly forgotten in recent years.

Twice displaced: The 2023 earthquake

The violent earthquake on February 6, 2023 caused the situation in the northwest of the country to deteriorate dramatically. More than 56,000 people died in Syria and Turkey and over two million people were left homeless overnight. In total, more than 22 million people were affectedincluding 9 million in Syria alone. 

There is still a lack of basic supplies, shelter, electricity and access to healthcare. Most of the affected families are still living in destroyed houses or in tents. The disaster has also severely affected the mental health of many people. Many have lost family members and friends. The already precarious humanitarian situation has become even worse: more than 15 million people in Syria, including 7 million children, are in urgent need of humanitarian aid. That is five percent more than in 2022. At the same time, there is a massive lack of humanitarian aid and funding, while Assad tries to rehabilitate the reputation of his regime through aid deliveries and to end the international isolation of Syria – with success. If you would like to know more, you are welcome to visit my article from November take a look inside.

The current European policy on Syria

While the Arab League and other states such as Turkey are gradually normalizing their relations with Syria, Europe's Syria policy continues to be based on sanctions against the Assad regime and direct humanitarian support for the Syrian civilian population. The latter is supported by instruments such as the Neighborhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI)the MADAD Fund and the Facility for refugees in Turkey made available. As part of the revision of the Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF), i.e. the long-term EU budget until 2027, the Commission has, for example, proposed an additional 5.2 billion to support Syrian refugees in Syria, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. In addition, exemptions are needed for trusted international humanitarian aid organizations so that they can help quickly and effectively in Syria. We are committed to ensuring that sanctions do not hinder the provision of vital humanitarian aid, but rather target the elites and war criminals. The European Parliament's Research Service has analyzed the impact of the sanctions here analyzed.

In addition, in the Committee on Foreign Recommendation to the Council, the Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) on the situation in Syria agreed. In it, we once again emphasize the Assad regime's serious human rights violations and the EU's duty to refrain from any normalization with him as long as there are no profound and verifiable changes through the implementation of the Resolution 2254(2015) of the UN Security Council there. This includes the release of political prisoners, information on the fate of missing persons and victims of enforced disappearances, and an end to all attacks on and obstruction of humanitarian aid. This is particularly important because there is still a significant threat to people across the country, such as Confidential sources from the Federal Foreign Office suggest. In addition, the Fighting in Syria resumeswhich is why the United Nations is calling for a ceasefire.

Other proposals in the UN resolution include stepping up the fight against Russian and Iranian disinformation about Syria, combating the ongoing impunity in Syria and providing greater support for civil society and the democratization processes being pursued.

European Parliament calls for sea rescue mission in the Mediterranean Sea

Finally! The EU Parliament has in a resolution clearly spoken out in favor of an EU sea rescue mission. In addition, we demand, among other things, that information about sea rescue cases be shared immediately, that the criminalization of sea rescue organizations be refrained from and that ships be allowed into the next safe port after sea rescues.
I negotiated the resolution for our group and even if we cannot immediately force the Member States to implement the measures, it is a clear sign of where the majority in Europe stands.

The deaths in the Mediterranean cannot be tolerated any longer.

I took the cover photo on a sea rescue mission after we gave people life jackets. Often on the overcrowded inflatable boats you can hardly see a piece of boat – only dozens of people in acute danger of their lives. This reality that every day is decided on life or death of many people at our external borders and the decision is too often that people just have to die in case of doubt, that must never become normal. But it has become normal and we have to change that again. Parliament's decision unfortunately does not bring about any concrete change, because Parliament cannot decide on operations and has only very limited powers in this area. But it does increase the pressure on the heads of state and government and sends a clear signal against right-wing populism.

Here are some of the demands from the resolution

  • We call for an EU maritime rescue mission.
  • Member States and the EU should finally comply with applicable international law and come to the aid of people in distress at sea.
  • We demand that the Commission creates a new, reliable and sustainable approach that ensures sea rescue and that we are no longer constantly dependent on ad-hoc solutions. The Commission should provide material, financial and operational support for this.
  • Member States and Frontex should proactively operate search and rescue missions and provide or deploy all necessary and available boats and equipment to save lives.
  • All Mediterranean states and Frontex should share or provide information on sea emergencies to ensure rescue.
  • Rescued people should be assigned to the nearest safe haven.
  • The Commission should set up a sea rescue contact group to coordinate missions by Frontex and member states and regularly inform the Parliament about it.
  • Frontex should share information about its operations and comply with Union law, just as member states do.
  • The Commission must ensure that Frontex and Member States only enter safe ports after rescue and do not expose asylum seekers to danger.
  • The dead of Pylos should be recovered, identified, their relatives informed and more bodies searched for. The survivors must be distributed in solidarity in the EU.
  • We advocate that safe escape routes are the best way to prevent deaths and therefore call for humanitarian corridors.

Here you can find the complete text on german and english.

What happens to money that the EU provides to Bosnia and Herzegovina for refugees?

Since the beginning of 2018, the EU has provided Bosnia and Herzegovina with a total of around €89 million for flight and migration. With the money should, according to the EU Commission provide humanitarian assistance to refugees and support the Bosnian authorities in migration management. 

Of this money, over €75 million came from the so-called Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance (IPA). This is pre-accession assistance from the EU to promote reforms in potential EU accession countries. The money is intended to help countries become fit for the EU. A further €13.8 million came from the ECHO pot, which provides funds for emergency humanitarian aid. 

This money also includes €3.5 million made available additionally by the EU Commission at the beginning of Januaryafter the camp in Lipa burned down and hundreds of people were left homeless at the mercy of the winter in the Bosnian mountains. The money will be used for warm clothing, blankets, food and health care. The money will mainly be used to support aid organisations such as Save the Children or the Danish Refugee Council. The Danish Refugee Council, for example, used parts of the funds to important reports on the violent and illegal pushbacks through Croatia to Bosnia-Herzegovina to create. 


In view of the terrible situation in Bosnia, some people are now asking what happened to the money. Deutsche Welle also reported on the topic.

This is where the money goes  

However, most of the money goes to IOM in Bosnia and Herzegovina. IOM has received a total of €76.8 million from the EU since June 2018, of which €51.6 million had been drawn down by the end of 2020. This left €25.3 million at the end of the year. The IOM homepage also lists the allocation of funds. I will list the most important points here again.

On this graph you can see that a large part of the funding comes from the IPA.pot. In addition, funds for a response to Covid-19 in Bosnia and Herzegovina have also been allocated to refugees so that they are not defenceless against the virus. In view of the cramped conditions in the existing warehouses and the very close proximity of bunk beds However, it must be doubted whether this strategy of the IOM is sufficient. 

How IOM uses the funds

In this chart, IOM lists how funds have been distributed in Bosnia and Herzegovina so far. 

14 % of the funds were spent on the creation or renovation of a total of seven camps in the canton of Una-Sana and the area around Sarajevo. This includes the installation of 562 containers in the camps Ušivak, Blažuj, Lipa, Bira, Sedra, Borici and Miral, as well as the reconstruction of the former student dormitory in Borici. In addition, approximately 5900 bunk beds, over 10,000 mattresses, 1300 heaters, 45 industrial washing machines and other equipment were purchased for the camps.Approximately 2 % will be spent on IOM administration, rooms and staff in the Sarajevo and Bihać offices.

Lack of transparency in the use of funds by Bosnian authorities

At €3.4 million, around seven per cent of the money went directly to Bosnia and Herzegovina's institutions. From the money, the police received new vehicles, drones, thermal imaging cameras and heavy protective equipment for counterinsurgency. However, after seeing with my own eyes the brutality with which the Canton police crack down on refugees, I have doubts about whether this is really the best use for the funds. In addition, the funds are being used to finance 25 employees of the Bosnian Foreigners Authority. 

Unfortunately, it is not possible at present to obtain a precise breakdown of the use of funds by the Bosnian authorities. The Bosnian authorities are not providing a full report on this and are ignoring enquiries from journalists. This is not a very transparent way of dealing with European taxpayers' money. 

The allocation of funds is monitored by a committee comprising representatives of the EU Delegation to Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Bosnian Ministry of Security, the border police, the foreigners' offices and several aid organisations. The Bosnian authorities, in particular, must explain where the money goes if they want to dispel doubts about the correct allocation of funds.

Funds for humanitarian aid

77 % of the funds spent by IOM so far went to the area of humanitarian aid. The more than € 16 million includes expenses for heating, water, garbage collection, maintenance, as well as the costs for IOM staff. IOM currently employs a total of 423 staff in the camps, 421 of whom are Bosnian nationals. 

Almost €10.9 million was spent by IOM on the distribution of more than 8.2 million meals. In doing so, IOM collaborated with the NGO Pomozi.ba in Sarajevo Canton and the Red Cross in Una-Sana Canton. 

For the purchase of goods for daily use, the IOM has spent a total of more than € 4.7 million for 1.6 million items. These are hygiene items such as soap and toothbrushes, but also sleeping bags, winter clothing or protective masks. 

Another €4.7 million was spent on health and education. This area includes medical care and transport, as well as special protection for underage refugees and their schooling. 

Another € 3.7 million was spent on security. The money also went to private security companies, which were much criticized by residents and NGOs for treating the refugees badly or simply not doing their job. Thus, despite the presence of the security guards, in May, a man was killed in the Ušivak camp. Funds were also used for fire alarms, fire extinguishers and first aid equipment. 

The political problems cannot be solved with more money

In summary, there is still room for improvement in the transparency of the use of funds. However, the accommodation of refugees in Bosnia and Herzegovina is not primarily a financial problem, but a political one. The entities and cantons in Bosnia and Herzegovina do not want to host refugees, shift the responsibility back and forth, and use the refugees for a political blame game to put the blame on the respective other ethnic groups or parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina. I have provided an overview of the political challenges in an Text on my homepage and also in my podcast described. 

However, despite all the justified criticism of Bosnia-Herzegovina, we must not forget why thousands of people are stuck there in the first place. Most of them have already been to EU countries such as Greece, where they were also treated inhumanely. And they want to move on, but they are being brutally and unlawfully beaten back by the Croatian authorities. The current terrible situation for refugees in Bosnia-Herzegovina is therefore also the fault of the EU states, and the Commission in particular must ensure that they finally comply with the law. 

In the short term, better conditions for refugees must be created in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and it can be discussed whether more money can be used to help in one place or another. However, the fundamental political problem cannot be hidden under higher sums of money. We, as citizens of the European Union, must not accept that Bosnia-Herzegovina is being misused as a dumping ground for refugees and that they are repeatedly beaten back there. 

Expert opinion proves: Federal states may take in refugees on their own!

I've commissioned an expert opinion that, under the title: „Reception of refugees from the camps on the Greek islands by the German Bundesländer-Legal conditions and borders“ has been published. It states that the federal government may not refuse to accept some refugee children by the federal states. So the government is unlawfully rejecting existing offers. This does not mean that the federal states or municipalities are now responsible here. Above all, the Federal Government and other EU states must now act quickly with the EU Commission! The expert opinion has been planned for a long time and is now ready.

You can find the report under this Link.

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