Since August 2021, the Alarm Phone has received numerous distress calls from the border between Belarus, Poland and Lithuania. In the media and public discourse, people on the move are portrayed either as a military threat or as absolute victims.
However, when we are in contact with these people, we witness something different:
We see human beings who have decided to move for a variety of reasons. We see people trying to reach their loved ones, and groups of friends trying to reach a safer place together. We also see the distress and concern of their relatives and friends who already made it to Germany or other EU countries on the other side of the border. These relatives and friends try to help those on the move but this can be dangerous as such support is increasingly criminalized. We also see acts of solidarity by activists from Poland, Lithuania, and other countries who stand alongside those in distress.
Relatives, friends, and activist allies tell us that they don’t accept this violent oppression of those on the move by state actors. This year, the EU’s refusal to allow people entry and systematic push-back operations have already caused too many deaths in the forests at the EU’s external borders.
EU member states continue to do what they also do along other migration routes: they follow a policy of border closure and deterrence, no matter the costs. Poland and Lithuania have sent armed forces to the region and have declared the border area an emergency zone, with a total ban on access even for journalists and humanitarian organisations. At the same time, Belarus is playing a dirty game, forcing people to stay for days or even weeks in the forest areas with no possibility to return to Minsk, and with no medical and other assistance.
All authorities involved continue to play with peoples’ lives and exploit the situation for their own political gains. For us it is clear: there is no such thing as a migration crisis. The only crisis we witness is a crisis of solidarity!
Over the past days, the escalating situation has received international attention – in a very worrying manner. Ever since people on the move started to use the Belarus route, inhumane narratives have dominated public debates. Mainstream media outlets suggest that Belarus is using migrants as weapons against Europe, following Erdogan’s lead. Mobilising the imaginary of a mass invasion, politicians in the EU speak of hybrid warfare.
We reject this narrative: migrants are not weapons – the only threat emanates from the EU’s racist and violent reactions to arrivals. The threats we witness in this cynical spectacle are exerted by the military-industrial complex and the EU border regime that it encompasses.
The dehumanization of people on the move and the calculated misportrayal of the situation feed the racist public discourse within the EU and beyond. The war we see is the EU’s war on migration – one that rages on not merely along the Belarus-EU border but also far beyond Europe.
Despite all of this violence, we see how people on the move create novel migration routes. Through their disobedient movements, they actively re-claim their right to move. We stand in solidarity with them and will continue to do our best to support them during their journeys. We will continue to fight for corridors of solidarity that rupture Europe’s barbed-wire fences and border walls!