WARSAW, Poland (AP) — Poland’s main opposition leader accused the conservative government on Thursday of hypocrisy for allegedly admitting large numbers of foreign workers despite its anti-migrant rhetoric and a new border wall.
Donald Tusk, a former prime minister and former top European Union official, said the government’s actions were in stark contrast with its official policy declarations.
Tusk, leader of the opposition Civic Coalition, and Polish media allege that the government admitted about 130,000 Muslim migrants last year despite its anti-migrant statements, aimed chiefly at non-Christians. They say the government is working to relax restrictions and allege that corruption and pressure from international work agencies are involved.
Allegations that the government has opened the doors to Middle East migrants are linked to the surprise firing last week of Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk. The dismissal came as the state Anti-Corruption Office was conducting an inspection of the Foreign Ministry that was focused on the consular and visa department that Wawrzyk headed, according to media reports.
The allegations could seriously hurt the governing populist Law and Justice party ahead of Oct. 15 parliamentary elections. The party is seeking an unprecedented third term and has escalated its usual anti-migrant rhetoric in the campaign.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the dismissal was the result of “unsatisfactory cooperation” by Wawrzyk within the government.
Government spokesperson Piotr Mueller said this week that Wawrzyk had “made a mistake” and gone beyond the government’s migration policy framework when he prepared new regulations. Media reports said the new rules would have admitted temporary workers from about 20 countries.
Two opposition lawmakers — Marcin Kierwinski and Jan Grabiec — who have sought information from the Foreign Ministry, say that up to 350,000 visas may have been issued in the past three years against regulations.
EU statistics bureau Eurostat says that in 2022, Poland issued some 700,000 “first residence” permits to citizens of 148 non-EU countries, making it the bloc’s top issuer of permits. Recipients were allowed to stay in Poland only, but the EU’s border-free Schengen Area permits travel within it.
Private Radio ZET talked to a diplomat who said, speaking on condition of anonymity, that stamped Polish visas could be bought from a stand outside the Polish Embassy in an African country — all that had to be filled in was the migrant’s name.
The practice was cut short after an inspection, but pressure from officials in the unspecified African country has resulted in its resumption, the diplomat told Radio Zet and its online version RadioZET.pl.
According to the Rzeczpospolita daily, up to $5,000 had to be paid for a visa issued outside the regular waiting-line system.
The Interior and Administration Ministry on Thursday denied that large numbers of migrants had been allowed to enter, saying “less than 30,000 workers from Muslim countries came last year to Poland.”
The government spent about 1.6 billion zlotys ($380,000) last year on a massive wall along the border with Belarus, intending to block the inflow of Middle East and African migrants. Reports say the inflow was reduced but not fully stopped.
After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Poland opened its border to millions of refugees from the attacked neighboring country, offering them accommodation and jobs. Some 1.3 million Ukrainians — mostly women and children — are registered as residing in Poland.