‘He beat us for three hours’: the stories of asylum seekers trying to make it in Poland | News from the world

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Outside a detention center in the Polish city of Bialystok, where we know asylum seekers who have crossed the border from Belarus are being held, we meet a local mother and son.

They came as visitors. The mother, who only wants to be known as Zofia, carries a bag of clothes. He plans to give them to a woman he met two weeks ago, living in the woods near his home.

The woman was among the five asylum seekers from Kurdistan who had managed to enter Poland from Belarus. They hid in the forest between the two nations. And they were desperate, barefoot and hungry.

Zofia took them to her house.

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Humanitarian crisis on the border with Belarus

“What else could I do?” she apparently asks more of herself than of me. He said he welcomed them, allowed them to bathe and offered them dinner. They stayed for three nights.

Zofia said that after they rested and regained strength, they left. They asked her hundreds of times not to call the police. He did not.

He said he knew that sooner or later they would be discovered.

But he gave them his phone number and the woman he helped called when she was picked up by the Polish authorities.

Now Zofia is here to see her again, offering compassion to someone in a desperate situation. And he tells me that he will continue to visit the woman because she is likely to be in the center for some time.

Zofia is not alone in Poland in a desire to help some of the thousands who try, some successfully, to enter a country of the European Union.

Close to the border with Belarus at night, some houses flash green lights to signal migrants and asylum seekers that they are welcome.

Aid agencies are doing what they can to help people who have managed to reach a no-man’s forest between the two nations, despite the Polish government having imposed legal restrictions that prevent journalists and aid workers from approaching the border.

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‘We are almost dying of cold and hunger’

In a city center, we meet asylum seekers from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other nations who are offered help in submitting their residence applications.

Everyone went through a trauma to get here. Many told us they endured days, sometimes weeks, of being pushed into border guards from different nations. Many claim to have been attacked by multiple authorities.

We meet 29-year-old Thaer Rezk from Homs in Syria. He tells an extraordinary story of a passage from Belarus to Poland, being beaten and pushed back, being taken to Lithuania and being pushed back again before a Belarusian guard cut through the barbed wire fence to Poland and let Thaer and his friends pass through. friends.

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“He beat us for three hours”

He tells us that they hid in the frozen forest for days and nights, struggling with the injuries inflicted by the beating they suffered. He said he was attacked by border guards in every country he ended up in.

He added: “In Belarus, he (the guard) kicks me in the chest. I can’t breathe. He kicked my friend in the face. His eye is gone. He hit us like that.”

In Lithuania, he said: “Commandos are not good. He is very hard and very bad. He beat us for three hours. Very badly. He beat us. He gave me an electric shock on my neck, on my foot.”

In the same center we meet an Iraqi mother, Haneen, who insists that we protect her identity. She is pregnant with her fourth child and has fled the violence at home with her young family.

They went to Belarus and waited at the border before moving to Poland, having to survive for days in the frozen forest.

Iraqi mother, Haneen
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“Our situation was really, really difficult”

She said, “Our situation was really, really difficult. All we had was some water left in a bottle and I had to share it with my kids. My husband and I didn’t drink. So nothing was going to happen to so they don’t die “.

He recalled: “After crossing the fence in Belarus and entering Poland, we waded through the water – which reached up to here (he pointed to his chest) – after which we walked for hours, drenched and surrounded by animals and I I don’t know what.

“We continued walking for three days until we reached an area where the police found us and brought us here.”

He is optimistic that his life and that of his children will now be safe in Poland or another EU country.

But thousands more share this aspiration and the Polish government is taking a hard line at the border. The hopes of all who head in this direction are unlikely to be fulfilled.

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