Poland Denied Entry And/Or Deported Members Of Civil Society Groups Due To Attend COP24

The reason given by the Polish authorities for refusing entry are due to allegations that they are a “threat to national security.”

Words

Anne-Sophie Garrigou

About a thousand people marched in the streets of Katowice on Saturday to ask the world’s learders to act quickly to fight climate change. But the absence of those who have been denied to enter Poland for the period of UNFCCC conference (170 according to 350.org) didn’t go unnoticed.

“Hours before the climate march, which was duly registered and approved by the respective authorities in advance for December 8, and is a peaceful non-violent action, at least 10 observers from civil society organizations from eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA) were detained at the border and denied entry on allegations of being “a threat to public order and security. Those, who are only planning to come to COP24 are also at risk. People are detained for long periods in ill-fitted rooms, searched and interrogated. Then they are deported. For the first time in COP’s entire history, the declared climate justice, key human rights and liberties, transparency and accessibility of the process that are guaranteed by the Europeean Union legislation and the rules of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for the annual Conference of Parties (COP24), were flagrantly violated and became a humiliating obstacle for the civil society representatives from a climatically vulnerable region.” — says Svitlana Romanko, regional coordinator of 350.org in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA).

The reason given by the Polish authorities for refusing entry are due to allegations that they are a ‘threat to national security.’ But for the civil society organisations here in Katowice, these deportations follow the enactment of controversial legislation passed by the Polish government ahead of COP24 and which gives authorities the power to “collect, obtain, gather, verify, process and use information, including personal data about persons posing a threat to public safety and order, including outside the borders of the Republic of Poland”. Several United Nations human rights experts had already publicly questioned the compatibility of the law with international human rights standards.

“The fact that these are not isolated instances are extremely worrying and we view the actions by the Polish border authorities in an extremely serious light,” said Dr. Stephan Singer, Interim Executive Focal Point at Climate Action Network (CAN). “The full and effective participation by civil society is entrenched in the Convention and, in fact, is imperative in our efforts to urgently transition to a new climate regime.”

“It is the belief of all of us at 350.org, and our partners, that the biggest threat that we face to our international and national security is that of not tackling the climate crisis and taking the urgent and necessary action to leave fossil fuels in the ground now. This is underscored in the recent IPCC Special Report on 1.5C Global Warming.

The voices of those denied entry to COP24 are essential to the unfolding climate talks and it is unacceptable that their presence at the climate talks should be impeded in this way. Ongoing restrictions on civil society will not stop a resilient climate movement” writes the non-profit organisation 350.org in a statement sent to the press.

“Participation of representatives of civil society organisations in climate negotiations is crucial, as they act as important leverage in decision-making.” explains Iryna Stavchuk, Executive Director of the Centre for Environmental Initiatives “Ecoaction”.

The deported civil society organisers have been working with mayors across the region to bring about a 100% shift to renewable energy in their cities and on development climate movement in the region. We’re talking about men and women who represent the people who don’t have a sit at the table, they are staff members and volunteers committed to tackling the climate crisis the world faces through campaigning for sustainable solutions. Some of them were even in possession of a valid UN accreditation to participate to the climate talk. For Wendel Trio, Director Climate Action Network Europe: “The Polish government is afraid to see the reality that also they need to act.”

“We are working together with civil society groups from all over the world in Katowice to hold our leaders accountable and demand a response to the climate crisis. We are extremely worried about the decision of Polish authorities to deny individuals from our partner group entry into the country. We demand that everybody who wants to come to the climate conference is allowed into the country to enact their right to participate in peaceful civil society actions for the climate” said Friends of the Earth Germany’s Ann-Kathrin Schneider.

Ostap Semerak, Minister for Ecology of the Ukrainian Government, expressed his concerned about the prohibition of the entry of activists and said he hoped that the situation will be resolved and that activists will be able to take part in COP24 during the second week of the climate conference.