The devastating methods girls undergo on the Poland-Belarus border | Refugees Information
Names marked with an asterisk have been modified to guard identities
Sokolka, Poland – When 28-year-old Shirin*, an Iraqi Kurd, crossed the border from Belarus into Poland together with her seven-year-old son Ali*, she didn’t count on to finish up unconscious and motionless within the freezing woods.
“Me and my son survived solely by miracle,” Shirin informed Al Jazeera from a hospital in a Polish border city, a day after she was loaded into an ambulance.
Her physique was lined in accidents and blisters from the chilly.
“I’ll always remember what I’ve seen within the woods,” she stated. “I’ve seen so many kids and infants there. Their moms have been screaming and praying for a miracle. The adults may barely survive, so what likelihood do infants have?
“These photographs can be haunting me till I die.”
Shirin fled the Kurdish area of Iraq with Ali, her solely youngster, and her husband Afran* on October 22.
However when Belarusian police noticed them making an attempt to cross the border into Poland, they intervened and pushed Afran again deeper into Belarus, based on her testimony.
Shirin crossed the border alone and spent 21 days within the woods with Ali.
“My son was crying: ‘Please, my father, please, my father,’ however we didn’t know if he was alive or lifeless. We ended up alone, freezing, with no meals.”
Shirin cried and shook as she informed Al Jazeera her story. Each her legs and one arm have been bandaged. She was unable to stroll.
She nonetheless doesn’t know the place her husband is.
‘I don’t know the place she is’
1000’s of ladies and kids have made makes an attempt to achieve the European Union by getting into Poland in latest weeks, as a migration disaster that started in August escalates.
Crowds of individuals at the moment are stranded between the border that separates Belarus and Poland. They travelled to Minsk, the Belarusian capital, on a promise that they might have the ability to breach the fence and enter the EU nation.
Poland and its Western allies say Belarus inspired folks, largely from the Center East, to the nation in an try to push them in the direction of the border and destabilise Europe – an act of revenge for Western sanctions on the administration of President Alexander Lukashenko.
There isn’t a official knowledge concerning the numbers of individuals on the Belarus-Poland border, however Agnieszka Kosowicz, head of the Polish Migration Discussion board, an NGO supporting refugees and migrants in Poland, informed Al Jazeera that “2,666 girls have utilized for asylum in Poland this yr alone, out of a complete of 6,697″.
She stated whereas girls’s tales are lined much less usually by the media than these of males, girls symbolize a big share of the migrating inhabitants.
“We all know for certain that girls are current on the border based mostly on native volunteers’ on a regular basis testimonies.
“Volunteers discuss girls so weak they can’t stroll or attend to their kids, about girls who cry over their kids who’re hungry, and ladies who mourn misplaced infants – kids they misplaced on account of miscarriage, or actually misplaced their kids whereas strolling within the forest at night time,” she stated.
Azin Govand*, a 27-year-old asylum seeker from the Iraqi Kurdish area who’s now in Minsk, has not seen her three-year-old daughter Shewa* or her husband since Belarusian authorities allegedly separated the household on the border.
On the identical time, Azin stated the authorities pushed her again into Belarus.
“I haven’t heard from my husband and daughter for greater than seven days,” Azin informed Al Jazeera by telephone, from a Belarusian quantity.
“I just lately noticed an image of a child lady wearing the identical garments as my daughter on social media. The lady was mendacity on the ground close to the border, face down,” she stated. “It may have been my daughter. I don’t know the place she is.”
Kosowicz stated a number of households have been break up up on the border or grow to be separated within the forests.
This consists of, for instance, when a mother or father is taken to hospital whereas the kids are left within the forests, or folks getting misplaced, or as individuals are pushed again by border officers on each side of the frontier.
Amid the chaos, instances of miscarriage have been documented. Different girls have been discovered with younger infants with extreme medical issues.
A one-year-old Syrian child boy is believed to be the youngest sufferer of the refugee disaster on the border. The reason for his reported demise has not but been established.
Nazanin*, an Iraqi Kurdish lady who was just lately rescued from the Polish woodlands close to the Belarus border after having spent a month there, informed Al Jazeera that “solely God saved her [seven-month-old] child from dying.”
She and her husband had fled Zakho, a area close to the border with Turkey and Syria, as a result of they have been uncovered to capturing and shelling.
“The infant was freezing,” Nazanin stated. “She was crying due to the chilly each night time.
“We solely had a T-shirt and one sweater for the child, no different garments, and no nappies,” she stated.
“We have been informed the journey can be brief, and ran out of meals rapidly. We haven’t eaten for 10 days, and walked seven or eight kilometres (4 to 5 miles) with out footwear,” she stated, pointing to her frostbitten ft.
“Throughout all that point, we needed to drink soiled water given to us by Belarusian guards, or water that we discovered within the swamps. We have been all sick.”
Karol Wilczynski, director of the Salam Lab NGO working in opposition to Islamophobia in Poland, who has been serving to the stranded refugees, informed Al Jazeera that he has seen a number of girls and infants in want.
“Essentially the most horrific and shifting scene I’ve ever witnessed was that of a 49-year previous grandmother together with her two-year-old granddaughter,” Wilczynski stated. “Once we discovered them, the grandmother was unconscious and had extreme hypothermia – solely 34 levels (93.2F) of physique temperature. By some miracle, the child survived.”
He stated an emergency providers operator refused to ship an ambulance and threatened to name border guards “to take care of the refugees”.
“We then referred to as Border Help, a gaggle of paramedic volunteers, who stated the grandmother would have died if she had stayed there any longer. I can’t think about what would have occurred to the child,” Wilczynski stated.
He has been volunteering with Grupa Granica, an umbrella organisation offering help on the border which supported 1,000 folks from November 8 to 12.
“Out of the 1,000 folks, 10 p.c have been kids, and greater than 25 p.c have been girls,” he stated. “Out of the remaining 65 p.c of males, an enormous half have been susceptible.”
Sarkawt*, 36, spent a few month within the woods, along with his spouse Nazdar* and their three kids aged six, eight, and 9.
The chilly and lack of drinkable water hit Nazdar, who collapsed and was hospitalised.
The youngsters suffered frostbite.
“Although we don’t know what is going to occur to [Nazdar], I thank God each day for saving all three of my infants,” Sarkawt informed Al Jazeera.
“Within the woods, I took my jacket off and put it on my infants. Typically, I attempted to make a hearth, however generally, it was too swampy, and I couldn’t,” he stated.
“Within the woods, we noticed many ladies and kids,” he stated. “On the Belarusian aspect, the guards would promote us meals and water however would ask for astronomical costs. They’d promote us a bottle of water or one biscuit for the kids for $50 as a result of they knew the moms would pay,” he stated.
Kosowicz stated she is involved with one lady who delivered untimely twins after crossing into Poland.
“I additionally bear in mind girls who couldn’t take a number of steps away from the group to urinate, and ladies who had their intervals and couldn’t attend to their fundamental hygienic wants in privateness,” she stated.
“Every time we hear a brand new story, it’s dramatic.”