News World On the EU's eastern border, seeking refuge is harder for some

On the EU’s eastern border, seeking refuge is harder for some

Poland has made it easier for Belarusians fleeing political persecution to enter, but for Seda Yunusova, a Chechen who was refused the opportunity to apply for asylum 16 times in 2016 and 2017, this is little comfort.

“With all this that is going on I am fearful again,” Yunusova told Reuters by telephone from the village of Dymna, near the Belarusian border city of Brest, where she has settled with her eight children.

Like other places in Belarus, Brest has seen violent anti-government protests, and Yunusova says signs of conflict are present in her village.

“God forbid we would have to seek refuge again.”

Yunusova says she and her family fled Chechnya after her husband refused to serve in the Russian army in Ukraine in 2014, having already been deployed there the previous year.

She says his military service meant the family was “blacklisted” by Polish border guards. He now works as a driver in Russia and visits on holidays.

Poland’s nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) government has cited security concerns as a reason for not accepting refugees, although it is keen to attract skilled workers from culturally similar Belarus.

However, for PiS’s critics, the presence of Yunusova and other Tajik and Chechen refugees on the European Union’s eastern border is a reminder of what they say is Poland’s refusal to meet its obligations under international law at a time when migration policy is straining relations in the bloc.

According to Kirill Kofanov, a lawyer at the Human Constanta NGO in Brest, there are 30 to 40 asylum seekers in the city.

Data from Poland’s Foreigners Office shows that the number of asylum applications processed in 2019 was around a third of the 2016 figure. While Poland has made it easier for Belarusians to get work and study visas, NGOs say it has been denying many other asylum seekers the right to submit applications.

The U.N. Refugee Agency has urged Poland to help people fleeing war and persecution after Europe’s human rights court ruled Warsaw had broken an international convention by denying asylum procedures to refugees.


Gulbarg Sayfova, whose husband is a political prisoner in Tajikistan, spent two months in Brest before she crossed the border in 2016.

“They said to me why did you come here? You can go to Muslim countries … why did you come to Poland?,” she told Reuters.

One Chechen asylum seeker who did not wish to give her name said she succeeded in making an asylum application and crossing the border on her 55th attempt. “Go to China, to Turkey … for all 54 attempts they said the same thing.”

The Polish Border Guard told Reuters by email that there were no refugee blacklists and officers did not discriminate on religious grounds. They declined to comment on individual cases.

“Border Guard officers are bound by rules of professional ethics concerning, among other things, the obligation to respect human dignity and to respect and protect human rights,” they said.

Poland’s interior ministry referred Reuters to answers given by the Border Guard.

For Yunusova, her priority is her children’s education as she tries to build a life in Belarus, helped by Polish charities.

“My oldest daughter would like to study in Poland. Perhaps one day.”


Top Stories

New covid cases under 200 today, number of hospitalised rising

  The health ministry announced 152 new cases of covid-19 over the past 24 hours, 11 of which were confirmed by PCR following an initial...

Central Bank Governor tests positive for covid

  Central Bank governor Constandinos Herodotou has tested positive for covid-19 and will self-isolate at home where he will continue his duties. Herodotou announced the positive...

Britain expects “very significant” week for Brexit talks as clock ticks down

  Britain and the European Union are heading into a “very significant” week, British foreign minister Dominic Raab said, as talks over a trade deal...

No restrictions to and from Limassol and Paphos as of midnight

  Authorities are suspending movement restrictions to and from Limassol and Paphos as of midnight in line with the new health ministry directives announced on...

Iran to give a ‘calculated’ response to nuclear scientist killing, says official

  Iran will give a “calculated and decisive” response to the killing of its top nuclear scientist, said a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader,...


Squash soup

Ingredients: 1 kg pumpkin, cut into small cubes, approximately 5 cups 2 medium (400g) sweet potatoes, cut into cubes, approximately 2 ½ cups 1 chopped leek, only...


No visit to Cyprus is complete without enjoying the traditional meal of many small dishes known as ‘meze’. This large feast, which has been a...

Prawns with fried cheese, barley shaped pasta

Put the barley shaped pasta into a small pan with salted water, bring to a boil and when tender, drain. Peal the prawns leaving...

Salmon and shrimp sheftalies

Mix all ingredients for tabbouli in a bowl and keep to one side so flavours can combine. Prepare the sheftalies: wash and soak the casing...