Refugees from Tajikistan denied protection in Poland
Four families from Tajikistan that have been unsuccessfully seeking international protection at the Polish-Belarussian border had to return to Russia. From Russia, they will probably be returned to Tajikistan, where they most likely will be arrested. According to reports of international organisations, Tajikistani dissidents returning to their home country from abroad may become victims of torture.
The HFHR petitioned the Border Guard to enable the Tajikistani refugees to seek protection. The Foundation also asked international organisations to monitor the situation at the Polish-Belorussian border.
“I spoke to the majority of the families that sought protection from Poland in Terespol”, says Marta Szczepanik, the HFHR’s immigration expert. “A married couple, who are likely to be ordered to enter Russia today because they have no right to extend their stay in Belarus, are activists of the youth organisation of the main opposition party banned last year in Tajikistan. Members of this party are currently detained by authorities or went into hiding. In 2015, one of these persons had spent several months in prison and after having been released decided to flee the country with their family, fearing persecution”, Marta Szczepanik says.
Month after month, the situation in Tajikistan deteriorates – all forms of pro-democratic activities are curbed and NGO activists face repression by authorities. In its appeals, the HFHR recalled the provisions of the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees that prohibit the refoulment and expulsion of a person expressing the fear of persecution before considering the case of the person in question.
Provisions of international law, European law, and Polish law oblige Poland to conduct fair proceedings for persons who seek international protection. “Polish authorities may refuse international protection if they find that persons applying for the refugee status are not at risk of being persecuted in their country of origin”, HFHR’s lawyer Daniel Witko explains. “However, at the Brest/Terspol border crossing no such proceedings were conducted. Foreigners should be given an opportunity to seek protection: they should not be denied protection by default”, Mr Witko says.
Lawyers of the HFHR are in contact with the Tajikistani families and consider taking further legal steps in this case.