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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Trade in Schengen visas in Poland: probably not a bulwark against migrants

No other European country issued as many work visas to citizens from Arab, Asian and African countries as Poland. A scandal.

Polish border with fence

A Polish border guard vehicle drives on the Polish side of Belarus in September Photo: Fabian Sommer/dpa

WARSAW taz | “It is one of the biggest scandals of this century,” complained Donald Tusk, the opposition leader from the liberal-conservative Civic Platform (PO), on his election campaign tour through Poland. According to Tusk, the national populists Law and Justice (PiS) in power in Warsaw have been conducting a brisk trade in Schengen visas for years.

Polish consulates in Asia and Africa are said to have issued around 250,000 work visas. Other opposition figures are even talking about 350,000 visas. In many cases, an intermediary company took care of the bureaucratic formalities. Bribes were paid – up to 5,000 US dollars per visa to Europe and between 25,000 and 40,000 dollars for a visa that allowed entry into the USA.

“This is not an affair, not even a little affair,” complains PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski on his election campaign tour. “This is some stupid idea that some people tried to exploit.” The opposition is trying to use force to drag the government into this. However, Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk was dismissed from the government without notice at the end of August and also removed from the PiS candidate list for the next parliamentary elections. Dem News portal Onet According to Wawrzyk, he and several accomplices have set up an illegal network to smuggle Asian and African migrants into Europe and the USA. Polish consulates are said to have worked with private companies that were paid for the smuggling.

“It’s just a matter of a few hundred visas,” says Kaczynski in Thorn, central Poland. What Tusk said was “a lie, a lie and more a lie!” However, lists with hundreds of names of applicants were leaked to the Polish press, who were supposed to receive a visa immediately at the instigation of the Deputy Foreign Minister and his staff, often without any verification. Indian citizens are said to have posed as Bollywood actors, make-up artists, etc., who were able to travel to Mexico and from there to the USA with so-called multiple Schengen visas.

Three people have already been arrested

Former minister Wawrzyk, the alleged mastermind behind the corrupt visa issuance, had to be hospitalized after attempting suicide

The Polish anti-corruption agency CBA searched the consular department in the Polish Foreign Ministry a few weeks ago. An initial suspicion was then formulated against seven people. Three people were arrested immediately.

Kaczynski did not want to comment on this. Nor does it include the fact that Poland has issued the most work visas to non-Europeans of all Schengen member states in recent years. The PiS-controlled public prosecutor’s office is also trying to downplay the scandal and speaks of “irregularities in the issuance of several hundred work visas” in some Arab countries as well as in India, the Philippines, Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan. As journalists increasingly asked where ex-minister Wawrzyk, the alleged mastermind behind the corrupt visa system, had gone after his release, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro revealed that he had to be hospitalized after attempting suicide.

PiS election victory in October could be shaky

The visa affair was a victory for PiS in the parliamentary elections in a month’s time. Because the hypocrisy of the ruling party has now become all too clear: while the PiS-controlled state broadcaster TVP is inciting against blacks and Arabs every evening on the main news, denigrating them as criminals, drug addicts, rapists, social parasites, violent criminals and accompanied by images of street riots, burning cars and so on shows the looting of grocery stores, on the other hand it is precisely the PiS that has brought more non-European foreigners into the country than any other party before it. The election of the PiS should be synonymous with the “Secure Future of the Poles”, as the PiS election campaign motto suggests to voters.

Images are also very popular from the Polish-Belarusian border, where the PiS government has had a five-meter-high steel fence erected along 200 of a total of around 400 kilometers of border. A man is shown repeatedly hitting rolls of wire and barbed wire with a simple shovel, the former border fortifications.

He is surrounded by many refugees in dark clothing who were forcibly brought to the border by the Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko – without money, cell phones, food or drink – and wanted to get to the other side. But there were heavily armed Polish border guards and police officers there. Meanwhile, some Polish journalists are reporting that even irregular refugees were able to get a Polish visa if they were caught at this border. The only requirement: they had to find the required bribe.

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