By Tarik Cyril Amar, a historian at Koç University in Istanbul engaged on Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern Europe, the historical past of World War II, the cultural Cold War, and the politics of reminiscence. He tweets at @tarikcyrilamar.
Just just a few days in the past, 4 migrants died of exhaustion and hypothermia whereas making an attempt to cross the border between Poland and Belarus. Nobody is aware of what number of others have perished on this similar method, dreaming of a brand new life within the West.
The would-be asylum seekers have unwittingly grow to be pawns in a wider geopolitical sport. EU states, which stand accused of turning again determined individuals alongside the frontier, have alleged that the Belarusian authorities has laid on flights to distressed locations similar to Iraq and Afghanistan and is now ‘weaponizing’ refugees to create a border disaster for Brussels. The lives at stake, nonetheless, have acquired little sympathy.
At across the similar time because the our bodies of the 4 individuals who had dreamed they might be welcome in Poland had been discovered, the nation’s president, Andrzej Duda, gave an handle to the UN General Assembly in New York. The distinction is gorgeous.
Duda made a particular level of lecturing his world viewers on the deserves of “solidarity,” and was clearly making an attempt to money in rhetorically on the identify of the Polish commerce union motion that resisted Communism within the 1980s. And not simply any solidarity, however that between the rich world “North” and the uncared for “South.” Tying himself right into a little bit of a geographical pretzel, Duda even claimed that the “North” had let down Ukraine – apparently now a part of the “South,” when you ignore its location, financial system, and large privileges of Western help – over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline that Polish conservatives can’t cease bemoaning.
And additionally on the similar time, precise individuals from the actual Global South had been being systematically abused in a lethal sport of hen between Belarus’ embattled autocrat, Alexander Lukashenko, and Polish nationalist populists. The essence of the row is easy: Lukashenko, sad over EU stress on his home crackdown on the opposition and more and more repressive rule, is making an attempt to make use of migrants to ship payback by encouraging or compelling them to cross the border into the EU – that’s, Poland, in addition to Lithuania and Latvia.
The nations he has reportedly focused on this method have responded by locking down their frontiers with fences and troops and by, declaring states of emergency. Lithuania and Latvia did so first. Poland adopted at first of September, severely proscribing the media and the civil rights of its personal inhabitants within the important space bordering on Belarus.
This is a transparent over-reaction that contradicts the spirit and the letter of Polish legislation, which reserves a state of emergency for – unsurprisingly – emergencies. That is, conditions that pose far larger challenges and can’t be handled by abnormal means.
The Polish measures, undertaken by a authorities with a well-deserved fame for repeatedly undermining democracy and the rule of legislation, reek of panic-mongering and nationalist populism. They have include the rhetorical cowl you’ll count on: Lukashenko’s soiled tips are denounced as a “hybrid war,” thereby invoking the dire requirements of wartime in a state of affairs that has nothing to do with it. Here, Polish conservatives observe within the footsteps of the US, with its dishonest “wars” on medication and on terror.
And, simply as within the American case, one huge lie requires extra to be added to it: Polish authorities members have indulged in hyperbole, presenting their intransigence in direction of the migrants as defending the entire EU from a non-existent nice migration disaster (and, as if in passing, darkly warning of the additionally non-existent risks emanating from pre-scheduled and clear Russian-Belarusian army maneuvers).
In actuality, the Polish state of emergency has made it simple for the authorities to impede the work of these Poles who do look after refugees, proscribing the entry of not solely the media but additionally activists and NGOs, such because the Ocalenie Foundation, which are attempting to assist them. In explicit, a bunch of 32 refugees from Afghanistan who’ve been stranded in inhospitable terrain and underneath very harsh situations near the village of Usnarz Górny, between Poland and Belarus, for greater than 44 days, and counting. According to the muse, which has managed to remain in contact with the group regardless of its deliberate isolation by the state of emergency, their plight is now “dramatic.” They are surrounded by barbed wire on all sides, weak with starvation, chilly, and in despair. At the identical time, Polish border guards have repeatedly prevented docs and UN representatives from reaching them.
Poland’s president, Duda, in the meantime, has used the identical speech wherein he held forth on “solidarity” to insist that his nation will stand agency and never give in to what he referred to as Belarus’ “instrumentalizing of migrants” and the “use of their difficult situation” to hazard the security of the Polish border.
Perhaps rankled by some, far too reticent, criticism of his nation’s brutal course, or maybe conscious that the UN presents a really completely different viewers from the one he faces at home, Duda was clearly making an attempt to sign at the very least some recognition of the migrants’ struggling. Yet phrases are low cost. In actuality, there’s a obvious contradiction that makes his speak hypocritical: It is unimaginable to each keep agency – that’s, to proceed Poland’s present coverage – and to do justice to the humanity of the victims of each Lukashenko’s technique and Poland’s response.
Poland is, after all, on no account alone in betting on deterrence by brutality. The US has finished so for a very long time, and the present scandal over the remedy of Haitian migrants stranded within the small Texan border city of Del Rio exhibits, as soon as once more, that this angle is bipartisan: Despite his guarantees to do higher, when the going will get powerful, President Biden makes use of the instruments of his predecessor Donald Trump, even when each the Democrats and the opposing Republicans fake in any other case, for apparent if completely different causes.
The EU as a complete has a nasty file of abusing migrants and letting them die, somewhat than letting them in. This yr alone, as an illustration, almost 1,400 migrants have already misplaced their lives making an attempt to cross the Mediterranean, persevering with a gentle development that reached a peak in 2016, with 3,557 estimated deaths. After a historical past of scandals over harsh camps, Greece has simply opened a facility that critics describe as akin to a jail.
In that unhappy sense, each Poland and Belarus, one inside and the opposite outdoors the EU, change into actually very European: ruthless and bereft of compassion. For the migrants misplaced between them, exhaustion and hypothermia had been the speedy causes of demise, but politics is the elemental one. And these deadly politics are produced by each governments collectively. The very last thing a Polish president ought to dare to talk about proper now’s solidarity.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed on this column are solely these of the writer and don’t essentially symbolize these of RT.