Concerns Over Recent Belarusian Government Directive-Statement to Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship of Canada.
Dear Minister Miller:
The Belarusian Canadian Alliance has been representing Canadians of Belarusian origin since 1948.
Today, we are writing to you to express our concerns regarding the recent directive (Source: https://pravo.by/document/?guid=12551&p0=P32300278 ) of President Aliaksandr Lukashenka, the illegitimate dictator of Belarus.
This directive significantly and materially reduces the scope of consular services provided to citizens of Belarus by its embassies worldwide. Most critically, the issuance of national Belarusian passports by Belarusian consulates and embassies abroad ceased completely as of September 7, 2023.
This decision is politically motivated: the Lukashenka regime aims to penalize more than 300,000 Belarusians who fled the country after protesting the rigged presidential elections in 2020, as well as the second wave of emigration triggered by anti-war protests in 2022.
As such, this unprecedented measure of the Belarusian government will impact many Belarusian Canadians who do not possess a Canadian travel passport. In order to obtain or renew a Belarusian passport, they are now forced to return to Belarus and apply via the local passport office.
Returning to Belarus is not safe for many of us simply due to our political views, adherence to democratic values, and the possession of Canadian visas. The Lukashenka regime selectively targets Belarusian citizens owning foreign visas, work permits, and permanent residency status in western countries.
Since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion in Ukraine, Lukashenka himself and state propaganda have been spreading narratives of hostility towards Poland, Baltic States, the EU, and NATO member countries. Numerous arrests at Belarusian border crossing stations have been reported since 2022, and this trend continues to escalate, unfortunately. Citizens of Belarus returning from travel or work abroad are being captured at the border and detained without access to legal aid. Some of them receive prison terms for having “extremist” pictures, videos, news subscriptions on their phones. Source: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1KgDrcAEYbiMTvbwl3PTJcJOufzlb3Y8a8nMnnif8OCg/mobilebasic
We kindly request your assistance in protecting the safety of Belarusian Canadians by helping them avoid a return to Belarus and facilitating the issuance of Canadian travel documents such as the Certificate of Identity and Temporary Travel Document. We also ask for your support in facilitating refugee applications for Belarusian activists within Canada, as they (and their family members) are among the most vulnerable individuals should they be forced to return to Belarus.
We look forward to working with you and your office on this important issue.
Alena Liavonchanka, Chairperson
Board of Directors,
Belarusian Canadian Alliance