A group of six Cubans is in an extremely dangerous situation, stranded on the border between Belarus and Poland for several days, without adequate clothing or food and at the expense of beatings and mistreatment by border authorities of both countries.
“We have been wandering through this ‘no man’s land’ for eight days, they do not let us go to one side or the other, they have beaten us several times, including the women. We tried to cross into Poland and they threatened us and beat us, and they won’t let us go back to Minsk to go back to Russia either.” It is the testimony for OnCuba of Yasmani Leonardo Pérez, one of them.
María Esther Moliner Correoso can no longer walk. Her legs, swollen and full of insect bites, do not support her, she says. “But last night hooded Belarusian guards came and beat us again. When they saw that I couldn’t stand up, they grabbed me by the hair and threw me as if I were a doll,” she said in one of the messages sent before losing communication hours ago.
In the eight days they have been stranded, once their supplies have run out, they have only ingested “river water, and what we are finding that other migrants have left behind,” they say.
At this time, they would remain together with a group of twenty others in the same situation, mainly from Pakistan, India and Syria.
“They have shared with us what little they have, and they gave us shelter in their tents, because we were dying of cold,” María Esther recounted.
The Cubans, from Havana and Artemisa, left the Russian city of Kazan, where they had been for some time. They did it out of “desperation,” they explain. “Russian police are raiding and deporting illegals. We couldn’t stay there,” says Yasmani.
According to the group of Cubans, someone promised to help them cross the borders, probably in exchange for money. They managed to enter Poland days ago; but the car that was supposed to wait for them did not arrive and they had to go out to look for food and water. When the police captured them, they were returned to the forest. They had to return to the Belarusian part; but now “they won’t let us go one way or the other,” one of them wrote in a WhatsApp message sent to a relative days ago.
“We only ask that they let us out of here. We entered Belarus legally. We are asking for help from international organizations and the Cuban embassy. Please, save us,” pleads María Esther.
The last known location of the group places them in Belarusian territory, between the towns of Malaya Opaka and Kazimirovo. In their last contact they did not know exactly where they were, since they had been forced to move by the border forces and had no internet. Their current whereabouts are unknown.
It is just the umpteenth case of Cubans facing extreme danger when trying to cross borders from Russia and Belarus (countries of free entry for Cubans) into the European Union. In addition to not mastering the language or customs, they often do not know the routes or the characteristics of the territories they must cross.
It is difficult to pin down an exact amount; but there are hundreds of testimonies from Cubans who in recent times and through the Balkan Peninsula have crossed half of Europe to reach Italy or Spain, preferred destinations due to cultural proximity and the presence of a large compatriot community.
The scene at the border
The situation on the border between Belarus and Poland, Latvia and Lithuania has worsened in recent times. In November 2021, thousands of migrants, mostly from Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries, gathered there, hoping to enter the European Union. The context of the war in Ukraine has only worsened the picture.
Lithuania, Latvia and Poland accuse Minsk of orchestrating a migration crisis to destabilize the EU in response to sanctions. Meanwhile, Belarus categorically denies any connection to the influx of undocumented migrants.
As reported by the Sputnik press agency in April, citing the Polish Border Troops, a total of 8,000 illegal migrants had tried to cross from Belarus to Poland since the beginning of 2023. In that month alone, 2,400 attempts were counted.
For their part, Belarusian border guards have more than once denounced that their European counterparts forcibly expel asylum seekers to Belarus.
In March, the Belarusian Border Protection Committee commented that such actions by the Polish authorities, when vulnerable people are left in an obviously dangerous situation, frequently lead to deaths at the border due to hypothermia or exhaustion.
On the other side of the fence the treatment is no better. And in between, human lives are in danger every day.