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Senior European Union officials are demanding an explanation from Poland over allegations that Polish diplomats sold temporary work visas to African and Asian migrants for thousands of dollars apiece.
Polish media outlets have alleged that officials allowed more than 130,000 migrants into Poland from majority-Muslim nations under the scheme. The Polish government, however, claimed that only a few hundred migrants were involved in the scheme and only 30,000 workers in total came to the Central European country last year from Muslim nations.
As the Associated Press noted, the kerfuffle was ironic. Polish voters are slated to go to the polls on Oct. 15 to elect a new parliament. Incumbent Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of the ruling right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) party has been employing anti-migrant rhetoric in his political campaign to dominate Polish politics since at least 2015.
Under Morawiecki, for example, construction crews recently completed a new 115-mile-long, 18-foot-high wall on Poland’s border with Belarus to keep migrants out, Euronews wrote. During the wall’s construction, Morawiecki declared a state of emergency that prevented journalists and human rights observers from entering the border region, raising fears that migrants were suffering abuse. At least 20 died last year due to freezing conditions on the Polish-Belarussian border.
Morawiecki has also been adamant in his support for Ukraine, his resistance to EU officials’ complaints of his party’s tampering with the judicial system and civil rights – officials who he says want to undermine Polish sovereignty – and his promotion of traditional, Catholic family values that exclude LGBTQ people and others, added Politico.
Running against Morawiecki is Donald Tusk, who was the Polish prime minister from 2007 to 2014 and president of the European Council, the chamber of national leaders that sets EU policy, from 2014 to 2019. On the campaign trail, he and his Civic Coalition political party colleagues depict the PiS party leaders as hypocrites who promote xenophobic views while secretly profiting from corruption that admits more foreigners into the country, further stoking divisiveness.
Nearly one million of Tusk’s supporters recently took to the streets of the capital of Warsaw in the “March of a Million Hearts,” reported the Associated Press. Carrying the Polish and EU flags – Tusk has vowed to mend the frayed relations that have developed between Poland and Brussels under the PiS – these “cheerful” and inclusive demonstrations are aimed to appeal to Poles seeking to put kinder, gentler politicians in charge.
Polls forecast that the PiS party will win around 38 percent of the vote compared with 30 percent for the Civic Coalition, according to the New York Times.
The two sides might need to form a coalition that mixes the hard and soft. Many Poles think that it’s about time.