Readers like you keep news free for everyone.

More than 5,000 readers have already pitched in to keep free access to The Journal.

For the price of one cup of coffee each week you can help keep paywalls away.

Support us today
Not now
Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 1°C

Irish MEPs criticise Poland for pushing migrants back at new border wall with Belarus

Poland is also refusing to host any Afghan refugees, labelling them as ‘challenges to the traditional makeup of their society’.

IRISH MEPS HAVE criticised Poland for pushing back migrants at its border with Belarus.

Their concerns have been voiced as the Polish government erects a barbed border wall with the neighbouring country. It intends to set up patrols and has also suggested it will not host Afghan refugees.

One Irish MEP said that what Poland was doing was “no better than what Trump was trying to do along the US-Mexico border”, and that the EU should condemn it.

The EU has said that the border wall can be built by the Polish government, so long as EU money is not used to build it.

The wall is to be modelled on one built by Hungary on its border with Serbia in 2015, according to the Polish defence minister Mariusz Blaszczak.

Polish President Andrzej Duda approved a state of emergency last week along Poland’s border with Belarus – the first time the measure has been used since the fall of Communism.

The provision bans all non-residents from the border area and obliges residents to carry identity documents, as well as imposing strict limits on media coverage in the area.

Thousands of migrants – most of them from the Middle East – have crossed from Belarus into the eastern EU member states of Latvia, Lithuania and Poland in recent months.

The EU suspects that the influx is deliberately engineered by Belarusian strongman Alexander Lukashenko as retaliation against EU sanctions following the hijacking of a Ryanair flight and the detention of a dissident journalist – a claim that the regime denies.

Poland has deployed 2,000 soldiers to the border in recent days and is building a barbed wire fence to keep the migrants out, sparking protests by non-governmental organisations.

Statements from Irish MEPs

The Journal asked all 13 Irish MEPs for their thoughts on the EU’s response to the border wall in Poland, and nine MEPs responded.

Fianna Fáil MEP Billy Kelleher said:

The actions of the Polish government in building a border wall along its frontier with Belarus is disappointing and wrong.
It is no better than what Trump was trying to do along the US-Mexico border. The EU should have condemned the Polish government’s actions. Putting up walls is not the answer to the challenge of migration.

A spokesperson for the Fine Gael delegation of MEPs – Deirdre Clune, Seán Kelly, Maria Walsh, Frances Fitzgerald and Colm Markey – said to The Journal:

“We in the Parliament are concerned by reports that the Polish government is actively pushing back migrants along the border and considering legal changes that could criminalise illegal border crossings, likely to be contrary to both EU Regulations and the Geneva Convention.

Moreover, Poland is refusing to host any Afghan refugees, labelling them as ‘challenges to the traditional makeup of their society’. Such actions are completely unacceptable and must be addressed at EU level.

Sinn Féin MEP Chris MacManus said that the EU “must be stronger in reminding Poland that asylum seekers have to be given the opportunity to apply for protection”.

“It is true these people, mainly from war-torn Iraq and Afghanistan, are being used in a cruel political game by the Belarussian government, but that does not mean they can be denied their rights under international humanitarian law. The EU should also be examining how the dispute with Belarus can be resolved through negotiations.”

Independents4Change MEP Mick Wallace said: “The EU should condone the wall, of course it should. But based on the EU’s attitude to migrants it is hardly surprising it has remained silent. Remember the EU paid Turkey €6 billion to warehouse refugees to keep them out of Europe.”

In 2015, the EU struck a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants travelling to Europe by paying Ankara to allow some migrants to stay in Turkey. This was mostly in response to the influx of people fleeing what would become the civil war in Syria.

Wallace’s colleague MEP Clare Daly said: “The EU doesn’t fund border walls and fences, but only because it doesn’t consider them ‘efficient’ tools for border management. It has no problem funding other mechanisms of border control, from night-vision goggles for border guards to surveillance systems to other ‘virtual’ walls like biometric identity databases.

In other words, it has no opposition in principle to weaponising borders in order to keep people out of Europe.

What’s next

The opposition in Poland has accused the ruling right-wing populist Law and Justice (PiS) party of using the issue as a way of drumming up electoral support from immigration opponents.

The 30-day state of emergency went into force last Thursday following its publication in the Journal of Laws.

“All persons other than residents will be banned from the area under state of emergency from midnight Thursday,” Deputy Interior Minister Maciej Wasik told reporters.

On Monday 6 September, Poland’s parliament voted in favour of the proposal: with 247 in favour and 168 MPs voting against it.

The political debate has become particularly heated over a group of around 30 migrants at a makeshift encampment on the border.

The migrants, which a charity trying to help them says are all from Afghanistan, have been camped out for nearly a month.

Polish troops have blocked them from entering EU territory to make asylum claims and have stopped activists from helping them.

The Polish-Belarusian border is 418 kilometres long.

Meanwhile, protesters laid out rolls of wire outside the Polish parliament to imitate the barbed border wall, and people held up placards reading ‘Border of Humanity’, ‘You Are Sentencing Them to Death’ and ‘Jesus Was a Refugee’.

With reporting from AFP

This work is co-funded by Journal Media and a grant programme from the European Parliament. Any opinions or conclusions expressed in this work is the author’s own. The European Parliament has no involvement in nor responsibility for the editorial content published by the project. For more information, see here.

We want to hear from you

The Journal launched The Good Information Project with the goal of enlisting readers to take a deep dive with us into key issues impacting Ireland right now.

You can keep up to date by signing up to The Good Information Project newsletter in the box below. If you want to join the discussion, ask questions or share your ideas on this or other topics, you can find our Facebook group here or contact us directly via WhatsApp.

Your Voice
Readers Comments
This is YOUR comments community. Stay civil, stay constructive, stay on topic. Please familiarise yourself with our comments policy here before taking part.
Leave a Comment
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.

    Leave a commentcancel