Poland’s government has adopted a resolution blaming EU policies for the renewed migration crisis that has struck the Italian island of Lampedusa and calling on Brussels to take tougher action “to stop the illegal flow of people”.
“The current situation in Lampedusa is a kind of symbol of a situation that threatens the whole of Europe, including Poland,” said Jarosław Kaczyński, chairman of the national-conservative ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, unveiling the resolution alongside Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
EU plans to introduce a new system for relocating migrants “are an encouragement of human trafficking”, added Kaczyński, who also serves as deputy prime minister. “It’s an incentive for those who want to take advantage of the opportunity to enter Europe illegally.”
“Our country is showing that it is possible to deal with illegal migration by sealing the borders,” he continued. “Everything we are talking about will be presented to the European Commission as Poland’s position.”
Premier Jarosław Kaczyński po zakończonym posiedzeniu #RadaMinistrów w #KPRM: Rada Ministrów podjęła uchwałę, która odnosi się do tego wszystkiego, co wiąże się z obecną sytuacją na Lampedusie. Tamtejsza sytuacja jest pewnego rodzaju symbolem sytuacji, która zagraża całej… pic.twitter.com/HFlH5BkvsG
— Kancelaria Premiera (@PremierRP) September 19, 2023
Over the last week, over 10,000 migrants have arrived on Lampedusa, an Italian island with a population of 6,000 located between Tunisia and Malta on the Mediterranean Sea.
In response to the crisis, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni visted Lampedusa, where they announced a 10-point plan to address the surge in migrant arrivals.
The second point is to “transfer people out of Lampedusa, including to other Member States using the voluntary solidarity mechanism”. Poland has, however, consistently and strongly opposed relocation schemes, including when they were included as part of a proposed new EU migration pact earlier this year.
— FRANCE 24 English (@France24_en) September 19, 2023
According to Warsaw, such mechanisms will not only not decrease irregular migration, but will, in fact, exacerbate it. Today’s government resolution calls instead for “a fundamental change in migration policy”.
This should include “an increased commitment to sealing the EU’s external borders, fighting against international smuggling mafias and the implementation of measures in migrants’ countries of origin”, says the resolution.
Only this “can bring real results in the fight against human trafficking and stopping the flow of illegal migration into the EU”, says the Polish government, which calls on Brussels to take “appropriate and immediate action”.
Von der Leyen’s 10-point plan does in fact include pledges to “support anti-smuggle” measures in migrants’ “countries of origin and transit”, including “campaigns to disincentivise the Mediterranean crossings”.
Poland will propose a five-point plan to better secure the EU’s borders at a summit in Brussels today.
The prime minister also pledged to veto a planned new EU migrant relocation system, despite it already having been approved by member states https://t.co/NyaSZh20MS
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) June 29, 2023
As well as its European context, today’s resolution comes amid a heated domestic debate over migration ahead of October’s parliamentary elections.
The government has become embroiled in a scandal over alleged corruption in the visa system that allowed migrants to expedite their applications through additional payments. The opposition has accused PiS of hypocrisy for publicly condemning illegal migration while actually facilitating it.
The government, however, says that the opposition has exaggerated the size and nature of visa corruption, which actually pertained to just a few hundred applications, most of which were rejected.
Seven people have been charged in relation to alleged corruption in the issuing of Polish visas to foreign nationals
The scandal has engulfed the government since last week, but officials say the opposition is exaggerating the scale and nature of the case https://t.co/iHnIShb1pQ
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) September 15, 2023
PiS has also in turn accused opposition leader Donald Tusk – who previously served as president of the European Council – of being one of those responsible for the EU’s loose migration policies.
The ruling party suggests that, if Tusk comes to power, Poland will end up being flooded with migrants just as Lampedusa has been.
It has called a national referendum that will take place simultaneously with elections. One of the questions asks Poles if they “support the reception of thousands of illegal immigrants from the Middle East and Africa, in accordance with the forced relocation mechanism imposed by the European bureaucracy”.
The ruling party wants to make this year’s election a referendum on opposition leader @donaldtusk.
While old foes Kaczyński and Tusk are relishing their renewed battle, it may benefit neither and instead further fuel the recent rise of the far right https://t.co/CTdwyPVkKu
— Notes from Poland 🇵🇱 (@notesfrompoland) August 16, 2023
Speaking today, Morawiecki called the crisis on Lampedusa “a cautionary tale”.
“The whole of Europe, the whole of the European Union, may look like Lampedusa if we wade into the same mistakes, the same schemes and mechanisms that the European Commission has proposed,” said the prime minister.
He emphasised that securing the bloc’s border is the only solution to the migration crisis. His government has pursued a tough policy on Poland’s border with Belarus – including building an anti-migrant wall – in response to a refugee and migrant crisis there engineered by Minsk.
🔴 Na południu Europy mamy do czynienia z kolejną wielką falą nielegalnych imigrantów.
Potrzebujemy europejskiego planu walki z problemem, którego symbolem jest dziś włoska Lampedusa.
Tym rozwiązaniem nie jest relokacja nielegalnych migrantów. Dlatego nasz rząd przyjmie dziś… pic.twitter.com/1sbU4LxcCf
— Prawo i Sprawiedliwość (@pisorgpl) September 19, 2023
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Main image credit: International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies/Flickr (under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Alicja Ptak is senior editor at Notes from Poland and a multimedia journalist. She previously worked for Reuters.