Tjetjenske krigsflygtninge sultestrejker i Polen

Warsaw, 05.06.00

Letter of the Chechen hunger strike committee to Polish Minister of Internal Affairs.

The escalation of warfare in Chechnya has caused a wide wave of refugees to flee to neighbouring republics (Ingushetia, Daghestan, Georgia and Azerbaijan). The total number of refugees amounts 350 thousand people. Only about 200 of them - including children - have managed to cross hostile territory and the Polish borders.

From the moment of their arrival on Polish soil, refugees were faced with new problems. Statistics show that nearly all of the Chechen families were denied access to Poland on their first attempt. This applies to all of the border crossings, especially those of Terespol, Przemysl, and Mamonowo. Refugees were able to enter Poland only after 2nd or 3rd attempt, only after the intervention of TV and newspaper journalists and the human rights commission. But the behaviour of border police has not changed since then.

The second and most important group of problems faced by the refugees are the conditions of life in the refugee centers in Dembak, Podkowa-Lesna, Smoszewo and Lublin.

The refugees are anxious because of their uncertain legal status. Despite numerous pressure actions by Polish citizens groups, no decisions were made by the state administration. The newcomers were simply registered and given a place in the centers.

It needs to be stressed that the legal status of refugees is a crucial one: without official refugee status, they are unable to continue education, to work and to move freely.

Another thing are the conditions of life in the refugee centers. Many of them have been given unappropriate rooms. For example: a 9 person family has been forced to live in a room of 15 square meters. Health care, sanitary conditions and the food supply are far from satisfactory. Chechens are Muslims, and they do not eat pork meat. The administration of the Dembak center has ignored the issue despite numerous requests. Pork meat has not been replaced with cheese and milk products. There have been cases, when the center personel has bathed dogs in the sinks meant for cleaning dishes, and fed them from the same dishes used by refugees.

The security of the refugees is another question. Women and children have been assailed in broad daylight in Lublin by local inhabitants. One of the women was hit with a rock on her head, and was hospitalised.

Another woman being pregnant has been kicked in her belly. The Chechen children who witnessed the incident will doubtlessly be marked durably by it.

Because of the scandalous situation of the refugee centers, individual refugees attempt to cross the border to Germany. Polish and German border police are extremely cruel and unhumanitarian for those who are caught.

At the beginning of may, this year, Albika Akbulatova has been imprisoned 5 days in a closed isolation cell. Akbulatova was in a state of mental shock. After seven days, she was transfered to a psychiatric clinic in Radom. Despite the requests of her husband and of other arrestees, the border police of Szczecin (the district where she was caught) have earlier denied medical aid to Albika, under the pretense she was "simulating". Currently Akbulatova is in a psychiatric clinic in Warsaw, on Nowowiejska street 27. Ignoring letters sent by parlamentarians, the district court of Szczecin have not released Albika's husband from the deportation arrest in Leszno-Wola. The meeting with her husband would have a beneficial effect on the suffering woman.

The small number of Chechens arrived in Poland during the first Russian aggression on the republic have still not been given status of political refugee. At the same time, many citizens of other countries receive each year refugee status in Poland.

With regard to the above mentioned facts, it needs to be stated that the Polish state is not respecting the Geneva Convention of 1951: "The status of refugees", and the New York Protocol of 1967. We demand an energetic intervention of the Polish Minister of Internal Affairs in the case of war refugees from Chechnya, who have to suffer humiliations in a supposedly friendly country.

We appeal to the Internal Affairs Minister, Marek Biernacki, to open the Polish borders for the Chechen victims of war. We demand that the senseless discrimination ceases now, and that those who managed to survive war be granted decent living conditions. The practices of the Internal Affairs Ministry are a disgrace to us all.

Participants of the hunger strike:

Said Baudinov,
Ahmed Edilsultanov,
Marek Kurzyniec

On saturday 9th june, the hunger strike has been suspended after the 9th day, because of the bad health of the participants. Other actions will follow, as the Polish government has remained ignorant of the issue.