Wednesday, September 27

Refugees of “first and second class” in Poland

Propaganda“. This word, almost universal, is the most repeated by the Poles when it is suggested to them that their country has been selective in hosting refugees. Because, although it is true that they are now being exemplary by receiving the Ukrainians fleeing war, Poland has been in the global spotlight during other recent migration crises.

They did not welcome Syrians, Iraqis or Afghans during the successive wars in those territories. Now, however, it has become the main host country for Ukrainian refugees. Of the 1.5 million displaced by the Russian invasion, almost 900,000 have fled to Poland, according to the latest data offered on Sunday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

What is happening comes to make visible, according to experts, the “double measuring stick“of the Government of Poland, which is the country that has shown the strongest anti-immigration policies in the last decade of all those that make up the so-called Visegrad Group (Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic).

Thus, while the ultraconservative Polish Executive Andrzej Duda build a five meter high wall in the north of the countryon the border with Belarusto prevent the entry of Syrian, Iraqi and Afghan refugees, the opening of borders in the east is total for Ukrainians fleeing the war.

On the defensive

The situation of the country’s immigration policy is a recurring question among the media that cover the border news of the invasion of Ukraine. The Poles answer on the defensiveto. Someone frowns. Another extends his arm showing how many compatriots there are at the border waiting for fleeing Ukrainians. Most, almost like a mantra, repeat the word: “Propaganda”.

Others emphasize that it is not a matter of race or confession: “Black people have entered here these days. The media say that they are returned at the border, but it is not true. There are photos and videos on the networks, look for them,” says a Pole, visibly upset, who does not want to give his name, on the northern border with Ukraine.

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“We are the country that is welcoming the most Ukrainians,” explains Tadeusz, a computer scientist from Lublin who takes two adult women and two children under the age of 10 from the neighboring country home in his van. Why not Syrians or Afghans?: “They are very far away. They should welcome them in the countries that are close, don’t you think?” He finishes from the Dorohusk border, the northernmost border crossing between Ukraine and Poland.

double standards

For migration expert Gonzalo Fanjul, however, what the war in Ukraine is making visible is the “double standards” in the refugee policy of Poland and Hungary, where “discrimination depending on the country of origin” is evident.

“There is talk that in some points of the border they are even doing two tailsone for Ukrainians and another for African, Afghan or Asian students,” says the research director of the PorCausa Foundation. “What is happening shows that there are first-class and second-class refugees, some who are subject to international protection and others no,” he maintains.

The last example of this fact, he assures, was experienced in the middle of last year, when a serious migration crisis broke out between Belarus and Poland, with thousands of Afghan immigrants crowded at the border of the first country waiting to cross into the second.

This occurred after in May 2021 the European Union sanction Belarus for forcing the landing in Minsk, the country’s capital, of a Ryanair plane carrying Roman Protasevich, a journalist critical of the president’s regime, Aleksandr Lukashenko.

The one who is the main ally of Vladimir Putin in this invasion of Ukraine – allowing the passage of Russian forces through his country, for example – responded by raising his hand on immigration control.

More security at the border

In response, to deal with the probable massive influx of immigrants, the Polish Government strengthened border security and approved building a wall whose cost amounts to €360 million and that began to be constituted at the end of 2021.

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“Poland has made an open and declared obstructionism to the asylum of the population that moves from Iraq, Afghanistan or Syria, and that arrived by the Balkan Route”, recalls Fanjul. Something that has not happened in this case with its Ukrainian neighbors.

For Alicia G. Rodríguez-Marín, an expert on Migration at El Orden Mundial, an international analysis outlet, Poland, which has always been opposed within the EU to distributing dues the number of refugees, has a different policy in this process because “there is a certain rhetoric that considers Ukrainian refugees part of the European entity” despite the fact that their country is not part of the 27 of the Union [este lunes, Bruselas dio el primer paso para que Moldavia, Georgia y Ucrania sean estados miembros, pero puede tardar en hacer efectivo una década].

In addition, the expert specifies, there is the circumstance that it is a “strictly neighboring” country. “When they are not European and do not obey that white and Christian entity, politics is different,” says the Migration expert.

labor migrations

Ruth Ferrero, Professor of Political Science at the Complutense University of Madrid and Researcher at the Institute of International Studies, takes the same line and places the “specific origin” of the refugees as a key, and how this war directly affects Europe, where it can “escalate the conflict”. She happens to happen, moreover, that Ukrainians “are the fundamental labor force” for Poland or the Czech Republic. “They have never closed the door to labor migration.” In fact, about two million Ukrainians already live in the Polish country. That is why it is so common at borders to see how people who arrive at train stations are picked up by relatives who already live in the neighboring country.

According to the teacher, there is also a cultural aspect, something like that the Ukrainians “are our foreigners”. “It is because of the fact that they are slavs, christiansand do not pose a threat to the National identity“, specifies the teacher, who makes it clear that in these Visegrad countries “there is no immigration phobia, but Islamophobia”.

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In fact, immigrants from countries arabs They currently barely represent 1% of the population of a country governed by the ultra-conservative Law and Justice (PiS) party. “It is a party whose political nature is against immigrationwhich he blames for many problems,” adds Rodríguez-Marín.

Strengthen Frontex

However, according to experts, the war in Ukraine may open another scenario in the New Migration and Asylum Pact that the members of the European Union have been debating since September 2020. Currently, there is a “unanimous agreement” in which all the measures of “waterproofing” of the external borders.

“That means strengthening Frontexsomething in which Poland and Hungary have a great interest,” Fanjul points out about one aspect of the pact that raises unanimity, but not others. For example, within the EU, there are countries, such as Spain or Italy, that demand more solidarity, while the Visegrad Four oppose and ask for more control and there is a third group, which includes Germany, among others, which advocates maintaining the status quo.

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“What the invasion of Ukraine can change is that the countries that are exposed to this migratory movement change their minds and become more supportive. Poland and Hungary can reconsider renegotiating the Dublin Pact if they receive those four million Ukrainian refugees that the UN calculates that they can arrive,” says the expert from Porcausa, who is concerned about the rumor mill that is beginning to settle in Brussels that states that the visas granted to Ukrainians “allow free movement through the territory Schengen“.

“To what extent could the EU sustain this obscene differentiation between refugees based on skin color or religion?” he asks.

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