Poland’s government has written to the European Union’s security commissioner alleging that a cash-for-visas scandal is an exaggerated “media fact” timed to discredit the ruling nationalists in a tough battle for re-election next month.
The letter from Poland’s deputy foreign minister to EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson emerged after she called on Poland to address allegations that up to 350,000 migrants purchased EU Schengen visas at Polish consulates through intermediaries. She said this raised concerns that Poland might have violated EU law, in particular the EU Visa Code.
The scandal broke out with the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party seeking to secure a third term in office in a closely contested election on October 15, with tough anti-immigrant rhetoric at the heart of the government’s campaign.
Last week, the foreign ministry fired the head of its legal service and cancelled all its contracts for outsourcing visa applications after seven people were charged over irregularities in granting work visas.
The scandal erupted on August 31 when officials of Poland’s Anti-Corruption Bureau searched the foreign ministry and a deputy foreign minister was dismissed.
The letter, signed by the undersecretary of state Pawel Jablonski, said the ministry had known about the matter since July 2022 and investigated it ever since.
He denied allegations made by Polish media and the centre-left opposition that hundreds of thousands of migrants received Polish work visas for inflated fees and entered the country without security checks.
Prosecutors had investigated just 268 cases, the letter said, and all migrants who applied for visas via external companies had been thoroughly checked by security services.
In response to the scandal, Germany has deployed hundreds more border police officers to the German-Polish frontier and summoned the Polish ambassador asking for clarification.
According to Eurostat data cited by the Rzeczpospolita daily, Poland issued almost two million work visas over the past three years, including 600,000 in 2020, more than a quarter of the total in the 27-member EU that year