Poland – With the campaign for the Polish parliamentary elections on October 15 in full swing, a new scandal involving the Morawiecki government has just broken out. In a dramatic development, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Piotr Wawrzyk (Law and Justice, or PiS), who had been dismissed on August 31 because of this affair. attempted suicide on September 14 and has now been hospitalized in very serious condition.
With just one month to go before the elections, and PiS under fire for having very significantly increased legal extra-European immigration, this scandal comes at the worst possible time for the governing camp.
According to reports in the Polish press, work visas have been granted to people from non-European countries in return for bribes and without any subsequent follow-up on the individuals concerned. Unsurprisingly, Donald Tusk, the leader of the liberal Civic Platform (PO) party, as well as other members of the opposition are eager to exploit the scandal to the full in their campaign. According to figures published by the Rzeczpospolita daily, Poland issued over 600,000 work visas in 2020 and 790,000 in 2021, while the European Union as a whole granted 2.2 million visas in 2020.
Secretary of State Wawrzyk allegedly forced diplomats to issue visas
One person who was responsible for the trafficking, which apparently involved only a small number of these visas, appears to have been Secretary of State Piotr Wawrzyk, who, according to Rzeczpospolita which cited the findings of Onet.pl journalist Andrzej Stankiewicz,
“helped his associates to create an illegal channel for trafficking immigrants from Asia and Africa through Europe to the United States”,
in which he “allegedly forced Polish diplomats to issue visas to immigrants he designated […] from Istanbul to Riyadh, Islamabad, Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangkok, Singapore, Hong Kong, Manila, Taipei, Abuja, and Dar-es Salam”.
Stankiewicz gives the example of Indians “who pretended to be Bollywood crews” and ended up in Mexico “from where they tried to get to the United States”, with the American security services then warning their Polish counterparts of this “illegal immigrant smuggling channel“.
The opposition has seized on the affair, with for example MP Dariusz Joński from the PO-led Civic Coalition (KO) calling for the resignation of Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau (PiS).
Morawiecki strikes back
PM Mateusz Morawiecki reacted on Friday, September 15 with a counter-attack directed against Donald Tusk and his policies during the time when he was himself prime minister: “Mr. Tusk, do you really think you will succeed in this deception?
Wasn’t it you who threatened Poland with consequences – that is, sanctions – if it didn’t take in dangerous, illegal immigrants?
We remember well what you said. We also remember well what the members of the Civic Platform said.” PM Morawiecki went on to recall the forced relocation mechanism that was supported by Donald Tusk and his party as well as the EPP, the group they are part of in the European Parliament: “This mechanism implies the possibility of unlimited admission of illegal migrants into EU countries, including Poland, or else there will be huge financial penalties for non-compliance. Such a mechanism is an incentive for smugglers. It is an incentive for gangs to send new migrants, mainly young men, to Europe.”
Morawiecki acknowledged there had been problems with some visas, however, saying: “Irregularities involving several hundred visas – I repeat, several hundred visas – have been identified by us as part of our control procedures. The Polish authorities have taken appropriate action, and those suspected of breaking the law have been identified.
The prosecutor’s office has charged seven people, three of whom are in custody. I am sure they will be punished accordingly. I have also instructed the director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to dismiss those officials who have not fulfilled their obligations.”
For its part, the wPolityce website, which is generally supportive of Poland’s conservative government, launched a counter-offensive, highlighting practices under Donald Tusk’s government under which visas were allegedly granted “in exchange for discounts in a Ukrainian restaurant” and “thousands of visas” were issued to people “posing as Ukrainians”.