Protesters demand humanitarian treatment of migrants at Belarus border
A protest was held in the eastern Polish Podlaskie province on Saturday calling for humanitarian and medical organisations to be granted access to operate in an area adjacent to the border with Belarus that is under a state of emergency.
The protest held in front of the local Border Guard headquarters in the town of Michałowo was called 'Mothers at the border. The place for children is not in the forest,' and was supported by three former first ladies, Jolanta Kwaśniewska, Anna Komorowska and Danuta Wałęsa.
Poland has been tackling a migratory crisis at its border with Belarus and has accused Minsk of engineering it to destabilise the EU.
"We want to express our opposition today to the inhumane treatment of, and the stripping of dignity from, refugees in the Polish-Belarusian border area and jointly appeal for the government, which itself is not helping, to enable medical and legal aid by humanitarian and social organisations," Jolanta Kwaśniewska, wife of ex-president Aleksander Kwaśniewski, read from an extract of the group's manifesto signed by the three former first ladies.
Anna Komorowska, wife of ex-president Bronisław Komorowski, read further that the treatment of refugees' children aroused special opposition from the group.
"Specifically, we do not agree with the inhumane treatment of children," Anna Komorowska read. "We do not agree with making us, Polish women and mothers, observers of the drama unfolding before our eyes. Polish society has sufficient instruments to separate those who pose a threat from those who need help. We do not agree with the stigmatisation of refugees and the exploitation of their tragedy for current political ends."
Danuta Wałęsa, wife of ex-president Lech Wałęsa, was not present at the demonstration but Jolanta Kwaśniewska said she supported the event and read part of the manifesto in her name. The extract thanked people of good will from around Poland who had helped the needy, especially in the border zone.
"We thank doctors and rescuers, volunteers from the 'Doctors at the Border' group, NGOs, local government authorities and residents of the borderlands for their help, putting on a green light in the windows of their homes," the manifesto read.
The green light has become a symbol of a home that welcomes refugees.
Demonstrators held banners bearing slogans including 'Allow aid to the border,' 'No-one is illegal,' 'The place for children is not in the forest,' 'We collect mushrooms in the forest, not bodies,' 'Blood on (PM Mateusz - PAP) Morawiecki's hands,' 'Stop round-ups on the border,' and 'The Border Guard has blood on its hands.'
The protesters also demanded that media be given access to the area under a state of emergency.