The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) estimates that some 200,000 to 500,000 Belarusians were forced to flee the country due to political repression following the 2020 presidential election. Most of them wish to return to a democratic Belarus as soon as possible. Some experts believe the term “politically displaced persons” applies to them.
The PACE Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons asked Paul Galles, a member of the Luxembourg Parliament, to prepare a report addressing the specific challenges faced by Belarusians in exile. During the committee’s last meeting on January 24, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s adviser Kristina Rikhter and Belarusian human rights activist Valdzis Fuhaš spoke on the topic.
The expert presentations provided an opportunity to learn about the problems experienced by Belarusians in exile. The level of repression in the country is escalating: national symbols and an ever-increasing number of independent media and NGOs are labeled extremist. Due to legislative changes, Belarusians in exile are at risk of having their citizenships revoked. The experts also shed light on Belarusians’ problems with legalization, integration into society, difficulties with accessing medical or psychological help, and the inability of regime critics and anti-war activists to return to Belarus.
The experts called for simplification of residence regulations for Belarusians who had to leave the country due to political persecution.
Paul Galles’s report on the problems of Belarusians in exile will be discussed at the Parliamentary Assembly in October 2023.