Poland stops refugees’ Strasbourg protest

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A train carrying over 200 refugees from the Caucasus residing in Poland was blocked yesterday (15 December) at the German border, Polish media reported. The refugees were on their way to protest to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg about poor living conditions.

The Wroc?aw-Dresden train, which was carrying around 230 refugees to a protest in Strasbourg, was first blocked for more than an hour at the main station in Legnica (Lower Silesia).

The conductor claimed that the refugees from Georgia, Chechnya and Ingushetia had leave the train or pay for their tickets. However, after an hour of negotiations, the train was able to continue on its way to Strasbourg until it was again held up at the German frontier in Zgorzelec.

Without the necessary documents, it was not possible for the refugees to cross the border and go further, the authorities explained. Border guards urged them to voluntarily leave the train. However, the refugees were still negotiating yesterday evening and a helicopter was monitoring the border from the German side.

‘Pigs are better fed than us in Poland’

According to Polish media, the refugees from the Caucasus were planning to hold a peaceful demonstration to fight for their rights in various European countries and complain about poor conditions in refugee camps in Poland. “Pigs are better fed than us in Poland,” said one of the refugees, Polish TV TVN24 reported.

“They are giving our children yoghurts that have passed their sell-by date,” another claimed.

Poor conditions for refugees in Poland have been highlighted several times by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and several NGOs.

Just before Poland’s accession to the Schengen area on 21 December 2007, thousands of asylum seekers arrived in Poland. At present, around 300 reach the country every month, according to UNHCR data. 

Chechens and other Caucasus citizens misunderstood the Schengen concept: those who were already considering fleeing Russia feared that they would no longer be able to access Polish territory once the country had become part of the Schengen area. Also, Chechens living in Poland thought that once border controls were abolished, they could go to any other EU country and seek asylum there. In fact, Dublin II regulations stipulate that asylum seekers can only lodge an asylum claim in the country of their arrival. If they move on to another Schengen member, they will be turned away.

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