As you are reading this call for help, at this exact moment, there is someone – a young man, a woman, a senior, maybe a whole family – hiding in the Polish forest, hungry, thirsty, sick or injured, stripped of all fundamental human rights, probably scared of being sent back to Belarus, the beatings and the violence.
More than two years ago, the Polish-Belarusian border became a migration route for people worldwide, forced to flee their homes and seek safety elsewhere. Instead of a chance to build a life for themselves and their loved ones, they were met with brutal violence on both sides of the border.
Belarusian dictator Aleksander Lukashenko created an opportunity for people mainly from Asia, the Middle East and Africa to arrive at the EU’s border, hoping to provoke panic and fear in Polish society. And he succeeded – the Polish government played right into his hands. Both governments do not recognize the humanity of those trapped at the border. All they can see are weapons, bullets of the “hybrid war” – to be hunted, caught and pushed back and forth from Poland to Belarus.
In response to the humanitarian crisis that ensued, Grupa Granica was created – a coalition of local community members of the Podlasie region, humanitarian workers, paramedics, volunteers and activists. Since August 2021, they have provided humanitarian aid to more than ten thousand people from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea and dozens of other places.
Every day, Grupa Granica receives calls for help from people who, despite the five-metre-high steel border fence topped with barbed wire, manage to cross the border into Poland. They respond by sending a humanitarian team, which provides food, water, clothing, shoes, medical aid, and legal assistance to people on the move – all the things the Polish and Belarusian border guards deprive them of.
The interventions often take place in the Białowieża primary forest, where not only the difficult terrain or a heavy back present the aid teams with a challenge but also increasing militarisation, as the army, police and border guards are constantly scouring the area. Attracting their attention means endangering people on the move, who are hiding in fear of the violent push-backs and what awaits them in Belarus: the beatings, robberies, sexual assaults, and torture.
This cruel policy led to at least 55 deaths at the Polish–Belarusian border. More than 200 people are presumed lost. They die and suffer, not because Europe doesn’t have the resources to help them, but because it chooses not to do so.
Grupa Granica is guided by the most important humanitarian principle: all human suffering must be addressed wherever it happens.
~ Bartosz Rumienczyk, Grupa Granica (Collective Border)
If you want to support Grupa Granica (Border Collective):
The Polish government provides very little funding to maintain refugee camps, so just 12 PLN (£2.40) per person is allocated for the full board. As a result, a group of private individuals, including volunteers, have taken it upon themselves to raise funds and provide food to refugees living in one of the detention camps in Podkowa Lesna (Dembak). If you want to help support these efforts, you can donate via PayPal at [email protected].
The refugees only speak their native language. We are looking for online English teachers who can teach Level Entry 0 beginners in ESOL. Lessons can be conducted online, for example, via WhatsApp. If you want to help refugees learn English, please contact [email protected].