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Germany rebukes neighbor over migrants

Berlin plans to introduce temporary control on borders with Poland and the Czech Republic to stem the inflow of migrants

FILE PHOTO: German Chancellor Olaf Scholz ©  Global Look Press / IMAGO / Harry Koerber

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has demanded Warsaw clarify allegations about the visa-for-cash scheme supposedly run by Polish officials. He also spoke in favor of “additional measures” at the border with Poland and the Czech Republic aimed at tackling the allegedly increased number of new arrivals coming to Germany through these countries. 

“Absurd numbers of visas are being issued” to migrants from outside the EU in Poland, Scholz told his Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) rally in the German state of Hesse last Saturday. He also said that the Polish authorities could “misuse” the visa mechanism.

Earlier, Poland’s opposition party, the center-right Civic Platform, accused the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) of appeasing a corruption scheme that allegedly illegally sold Polish visas at consulates around the world. 

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hit back by accusing the Civic Platform leader, Donald Tusk, of exaggerating the issue. He did admit, though, that the government had discovered “irregularities involving several hundred visas.” 

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Berlin has meanwhile announced its own measures to tackle the issue. German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said last week that her ministry was considering the introduction of short-term stationary controls at the border with Poland and the Czech Republic in an attempt to fight human trafficking. 

According to the German media, the eastern state of Brandenburg, bordering Poland, saw an average of 35 illegal immigrants forwarded to the police per day in August. In September, this number grew to 57. “The establishment of stationary border controls is therefore more urgent than ever, and the Federal Minister of the Interior has my support,” the regional interior minister, Michael Stuebgen, said. 

Speaking at another rally in Bavaria, Scholz also admitted that the number of new arrivals had “dramatically increased,” while blaming Warsaw for the issue. “I don’t want [people] just to be waved through from Poland, and then afterwards we have a discussion about our asylum policy,” he said.

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Asylum seekers coming from Poland should instead “be registered there and undergo an asylum procedure there,” he said, adding that the alleged visas-for-cash scheme “only makes the problem worse.” 

“The visa scandal that is taking place in Poland needs to be clarified,” Scholz said. 

The issue drew the attention of Brussels as well. Although the EU Commission refused to comment on whether it received any complaints from Berlin, Anitta Hipper, commission spokesperson for home affairs, called the alleged visa fraud “very concerning,» the Financial Times reported on Sunday. The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, also asked Warsaw for clarifications, she added. 

The developments came as the EU top diplomat, Josep Borrel, warned that immigration might become a «dissolving force” for the 27-nation bloc because some member states simply “don’t want to accept people from outside.” He also insisted that some EU states needed an influx of migrants due to “low demographic growth” and called the situation a “paradox.”

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