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Poland to conduct migrant searches at Slovakian border

September 25, 2023

PM Mateusz Morawiecki says measures will combat illegal migration from Slovakia, which has arrested 27,000 migrants so far this year. Poland says it doesn't want to be accused of having porous borders.

Two Polish border guards and their dog
Poland's ruling PiS party has been ramping up its anti-migrant rhetoric ahead of elections in OctoberImage: Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki on Monday announced that Poland would begin conducting vehicle searches at its border with Slovakia.

"I instructed the interior minister to introduce controls there... on minibuses, vans, cars, buses where there is suspicion that there are illegal immigrants," he said.

Morawiecki, who made the remarks at a campaign event, said the move was designed to halt traffic on a new, unauthorized migrant route to Germany.

"We don't want anyone alleging that our border is porous," said Morawiecki.

Warsaw dealing with unpleasant migration scandal during election campaign

The announcement comes on the heels of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz calling for Polish clarification on reports that Warsaw's embassies in Africa and Asia were selling temporary EU work visas for thousands of dollars each.

A top diplomat has been fired and the Polish embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, is under investigation as a result of the scandal. Yet, despite the belief that the scheme was run from within his department, Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau has refused to step down.

Scholz, who has faced criticism at home for not doing enough to curb migrant arrivals, told the German news agency DPA this weekend that Warsaw would have to be transparent, "I don't want people to just be waved through from Poland and us to have a discussion about asylum policy afterward."

Two Polish police conducting passenger vehicle controls near the Belarus border in November 2021
The new border checks will come on top of random migrant checks police are already conductingImage: Matthias Schrader/AP/picture alliance

Polish Foreign Minister Rau called on Scholz, "to respect Poland's sovereignty and refrain from statements that damage our mutual relations."

Rau has now accused Scholz of meddling in Poland's internal affairs just weeks before the ruling ultra-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party hopes to win a third term in power in elections set for October 15 — PiS has made illegal migration a central issue in its nationalist campaign. 

Scholz spokesman Steffen Hebestreit on Monday said, "I can't see any interference in any election campaign," adding that it was "perfectly normal" for the chancellor to be commenting on a situation "in which Germany is massively affected."

Schengen suspended as countries struggle to control border amid migrant influx

Last week, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser acknowledged Berlin was in talks with Poland and the Czech Republic about introducing temporary border checks to stop the influx of migrants into Germany.

At the time, Faeser said the border presence would come in addition to random police checks already being carried out.

Germany, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are all members of Europe's visa-free Schengen Area, which means that, in theory, there are no border checks when crossing between them.

In practice, several states carry out some form of checks at certain borders within Schengen.

Still, many countries have struggled to control the large number of people coming to the EU from Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Slovakia in particular has seen a large increase in arrivals. Authorities there say they have detained more than 27,000 people so far this year — nine times more than during the same period last year.

Germany sees rising migration at Polish border

js/ab (AP, Reuters)