Man’s inhumanity to man by Angela Caldin

The images of those refugees on the border between Belarus and Poland are haunting me. Thousands of them are braving the cold along with extreme hardship in an attempt to get into Europe. Young people, old people, families with young children, people in need of medical treatment, all huddled and herded together with little shelter, food, water or medical attention. At least twelve have died because of the dreadful conditions.

Migrants seeking warmth in the forest

At first I thought they must be fleeing the harsh regime in Belarus, but now I understand that they are migrants and refugees from the Middle East (mainly Iraq) and Africa who pay smugglers for a flight to Minsk and then set off for the Polish border. Desperate people have been persuaded that this route is easier and safer than attempting to cross to Europe by water. Many observers believe it is an attempt by Lukashenko, the president of Belarus, to divide the EU and take revenge for the severe sanctions that have been imposed after his crackdown on opposition to his authoritarian regime.

Poland is determined that the refugees shall not get through, while Belarus is determined that they shall. This means that violence is erupting. Rock throwing by migrants has been met by Polish border guards firing water cannon and teargas at them. There is video footage of stun grenades detonating near migrants. Poland has claimed the stun grenades were provided by Belarus.

Alexander Lukashenko, president of Belarus

Meanwhile I am going to go with my granddaughter to buy material so she can make Christmas stockings. She is gearing up for the festive season already. With my own children I was a bit of a Christmas curmudgeon: not buying a tree until just before Christmas day and filling their stockings with useful things like selotape and pencil sharpeners, much to their disappointment. Now I am more ready to enter into the spirit of things and to brave the array of Christmas paraphernalia, taking pleasure in my granddaughter’s delight.

But even while I’m making a list of what we need and getting ready to face the glitter and the tinsel, I’m thinking about those people trapped in Belarus, huddled round makeshift fires, who are being used as pawns in an international game. We are lucky here in safety, able to look forward to a joyous festival, while others suffer in the most extreme of circumstances. I don’t know if there is a way to help, but if there is, I need to find it.

People protest in support of refugees

Man’s Inhumanity to Man

Many and sharp the numerous ills
Inwoven with our frame;
More pointed still, we make ourselves
Regret, remorse and shame;
And man, whose heaven-erected face
The smiles of love adorn,
Man’s inhumanity to man,
Makes countless thousands mourn.

Robert Burns

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