BM85: Defending the Rights and Educational Opportunities of Belarusian Citizens Abroad

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On 4 September 2023, Aliaksandar Lukashenka signed a decree that limits the number of services provided by the Belarusian embassies and consulates overseas. According to the decree:

  • Apostille affixing on an official document drawn up in the territory of Belarus is possible upon the personal application of a person;
  • Legalization of an official document in Belarus (e.g., marriage or divorce, change of name or gender, registration of the birth of a child or death of a loved one in a foreign country); 
  • It will be possible to get duplicates of education documents, certain certificates, and repeated certificates from the registry office only upon personal appearance or by power of attorney issued in Belarus;
  • Citizens living abroad will be able to issue or exchange passports only when they return to Belarus. Diplomatic missions or consular offices will not perform such functions.

We consider the decree the act of state refusal to fulfill its obligations and ensure the rights of its citizens. It is an attempt to spread the repression against Belarusian beyond the borders. The decree is also a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Belarus is a party. The recent stringent action taken by the Belarusian government appears to be a retaliatory measure against individuals critical of the regime who are currently in exile. Those compelled to come back to the country for necessary documentation face the imminent threat of arrest and political persecution. 

An expired passport significantly impedes international travel, thereby restricting the individual’s capacity to visit other nations or repatriate to their country of origin. Additionally, it poses obstacles in acquiring legal residency status within a host country, potentially exposing the individual to legal proceedings or deportation. 

This decree has a direct and adverse impact on Belarusian students studying abroad, a demographic comprising thousands (with approximately 12 thousand Belarusian students currently enrolled in educational institutions in Poland alone). The decree imposes constraints on their ability to secure necessary documentation for educational purposes, rendering them unable to obtain essential student permits required for studying abroad. Furthermore, it adversely affects their legal standing throughout the course of their academic pursuits. Prospective students aspiring to commence studies abroad also encounter challenges stemming from the absence of an apostille on their academic documents, further complicating the initiation of their educational endeavors.

Taking into account the above-mentioned, we urge:

  • The NUSes to inform national higher education institutions about the potential bureaucratic challenges with the academic documents of Belarusian students;
  • The European higher education institutions to design a flexible mechanism to enable the admission of Belarusian students without necessary academic documents; 
  • National migration office or any other respective institutions to design a procedural framework for issuance of a foreigner passport or/and continued recognition of the expired passports, addressing the specific needs and challenges faced by individuals affected by the aforementioned circumstances.

Proposers: BSA



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