Usnarz Górny: we are in touch with a group of refugees held at the border. The situation is dramatic.

Ms Gul (R) with her daughter Mursal (L), Usnarz Górny, 20 August 2021 Fot. Maciej Moskwa/ Testigo Documentary

Since September 3, the Ocalenie Foundation has been in regular phone contact with Afghan asylum seekers stuck in Usnarz Górny on the Polish-Belarussian border. So far, out of concern for their safety, we have not disclosed this information. However, the latest messages from the group are so dramatic that we see no other option. We decided to publish the recordings of today’s conversations. The group agreed to their publication.

Already before the introduction of the state of emergency, a family member of one of the detained persons gave us the phone number of one of the group members. As long as representatives of the Foundation could be present at the border, phone communication was only auxiliary. After the introduction of a state of emergency, it became the only possible way to obtain information about the group’s situation.

“We are aware that this communication channel is most likely under the control of the Belarusian border guard – after all, someone is charging this phone. Therefore, as long as possible, we preferred to rely on communication face-to-face. Unfortunately, by introducing a state of emergency, the Polish government left us no choice. The phone is the only means of communicationwe have left,” says Piotr Bystrianin, Chairperson of the Board of the Ocalenie Foundation.

The asylum seekers from Usnarz Górny occasionally send text messages. Every other day a call between them and Fundacja Ocalenie is arranged. The communication takes place through interpreters in Dari.

“We did not disclose that we had phone contact with the group earlier, because we were afraid that Polish guards might take the telephone. In addition, we had a bit of hope that the authorities – Polish or Belarusian – would come to their senses, fearing that someone would die, and end this horrific show of strength. Unfortunately, we now know with certainty that the death of people is not an obstacle to the continuation of these inhuman activities. The situation of the group is so dramatic that we have to tell the world about it,“ explains Bystrian.

The last conversation with people stuck in Usnarz took place in the afternoon of September 21. We spoke to Gul and Masoud. We have had about a dozen of similar conversations in recent weeks.

September 21, call with Ms Gul: “We are sitting between the barbed wires of Poland and Belarus. What are we supposed to do? You know in whose hands Afghanistan is.”

The more time passed from the introduction of the state of emergency, the longer and colder the nights in Podlasie became, the more disturbing messages we received from the group from the border.

September 9, SMS: “We look forward to hearing from you. They are putting the barbed wire in front of us” – they wrote as the barbed wire was stretched along the Polish side.

We observed a gradual loss of hope and strength to carry on.

September 11, call with Abdul Hafiz: “Due to the small amount of food consumed, people detained in Usnarz satisfy their biological needs only every 4-5 days.”

“What can you tell people who have been held in inhumane conditions for a month and you have no good news for them? For weeks now we haven’t had any information for them that would give them hope that their situation would improve. The only thing we could repeat is that we keep our fingers crossed for them,” says Kalina Czwarnóg from the Ocalenie Foundation, who, together with the interpreters, talks to the group on the border.  “We try to talk every other day to monitor their condition, but also to show that someone still cares about them in Poland,” she adds.

September 13, call with Abdul Hafiz: “People tried to sing together to lift their spirits. However, they are all so weak that they cannot remember the words of any song.”

September 21, call with Masoud: “If we stay here and die, will you take care of our dead bodies?”

September 15, SMS: “Belarusian soldiers surround us from 4 sides with barbed wire so that we cannot go anywhere.”

On September 21, we spoke with Ms Gul (link to the full recording) and Masoud (link to the full recording). Abdul Hafiz, who usually talked to us, was too weak to speak this time. *** SEE BELOW FOR THE TRANSLATIONS OF THEIR STATEMENTS.  

The conditions in which people are held in Usnarz endanger their health and life. We already know about the first deaths on the Polish-Belarussian border. But it is still possible to prevent more tragedies. We call on the Polish authorities to immediately provide the necessary assistance to asylum seekers in need  – those from Usnarz and those elsewhere along the border – before another irreversible tragedy occurs.



link to the original recording

„Greetings to the entire Polish nation, to men and women! We are sitting between the barbed wires of Belarus and Poland. What are we going to do, you know whose hands Afghanistan is in. Our country has been taken by the Taliban, and what shall we do? We are surrounded by barbed wire. You know from your own history what it means to be refugees. You know what it is. You are not at home, you have no food. Every day I go and look at the Polish and Belarusian side and I think what’s next? Please, please! Please, Poland, have mercy on us! Take us from here, somewhere inside the country! We only ask this much, save us from death! If you do not want to offer us protection, at least save us from death. If you don’t want to protect us, that’s not a problem, just save us from death. And then we will do something to return to our country. You all know that we cannot return to our country. If we could, I wouldn’t be staying here for a second. I’m sick. I have a sore back and (pains in my) left kidney. I am very ill. I can’t sleep at night. Whoever wants to know how we feel can come and ask and see what state we are in. On both sides, the officers can see our condition. We ask them to have mercy. They see the state we are in. For the first time in history, I see a situation where people are stopped several times in the country they are fleeing to and pushed back to the border. Please don’t do this to us, help us! Get us out of here! Nobody wants to help us: neither Poland nor Belarus.”


link to the original recording

„Good morning to everyone belonging to the Polish nation! I greet everyone from the border, where 32 people from Afghanistan have been sitting for 42 days hungry, cold and in a very bad condition. It’s been raining for 3 days and nights, all the tents are wet and all our stuff too. Neither the Polish nor the Belarusian side gives us anything to eat. We ask you to help us get out of this place. Give us shelter for a while, so we dont die here. We ask the Polish people to ask their government to help us, so that we do not die. Put us somewhere for a while, get us out of here and then decide what to do with us. If we stay here for 2 or 3 days, I’m sure we’ll die here. Between 4 and10 people could die within days. They are all just lying in their tents. They have headaches, stomachaches, they are in a very bad condition. A separate request to the Polish government: please help us, because you left us here for 42 days. At least give us permission to be placed somewhere for a while. Then you will decide if we go back to Afghanistan. Because we’re sitting here and neither side wants to take us in. If we stay here and die, will you take care of our dead bodies?”