As Polish authorities illegally deport migrants back into Belarus, local residents have taken matters into their own hands by inviting refugees into their homes.
Polish residents near the Belarus border have switched on green lights in their homes and porches to guide migrants out of the Bialowieza forest and to safety.
The green light campaign is part of a wider local movement lending a helping hand to asylum seekers who are hiding from hostile Polish authorities. In recent weeks, many migrants have crossed into Poland through the Bialowieza forest in dark, swampy, and sub-zero temperatures, and have remained stranded there for weeks.
Now residents hope that switching the green lights will help migrants find safety, and more generally raise awareness of the current refugee crisis.
Monika, resident of the Polish village Pogorzelce, told Sky News: “We put on the green light on our house because it is a sign that it is a home kind to people in need. Everyone who knocks on the door will get hot tea, a warm meal, change of clothes and we will call medical help”.
For others, switching on a green light is more of a symbolic expression of solidarity with refugees in Polish communities that have become bitterly divided over the handling of the border crisis.
“We must remain human” said Polish lawyer Kamil Syller.
Volunteers have also patrolled the Bialowieza forest to find stranded migrants and provide them with sleeping bags, nappies, food, and medicine, however they have played a ‘cat-and-mouse’ game with the government which has taken a hard-line approach to the migrant crisis.
In October, Poland’s parliament approved a bill allowing border guards to refuse applications for international asylum without examination, in contravention of international law which guarantees asylum even for those who have entered a territory illegally. Polish border guards have also deported migrants back into Belarus and set up an exclusion zone near the border banning aid agencies and journalists.