Poland has reintroduced checks on its border with Slovakia in a bid to curb illegal migrants crossing European Union frontiers in the Balkans and making their way to Germany and beyond.
The decision has come as Germany signalled it may be about to reintroduce its own border controls with Poland and Czechia to block the flow of illegal migrants arriving through the Balkans and Belarus.
Schengen Area rules allow countries to temporarily introduce such controls as a measure of last resort in exceptional circumstances. Both Poland and Slovakia are part of the Schengen group.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki declared on September 25 at a public meeting that he had “instructed the interior minister to introduce checks on the Polish-Slovak border of vans, cars and buses that may be suspected of carrying illegal immigrants so that no one accuses us of having a leaky border”.
The comments seemed to be in reference to concerns expressed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his interior minister Nancy Faeser.
Morawiecki added that the “Polish border will be safe as long as the PiS Government is in power”, alluding to the tough stance the ruling party is taking in election campaigns ahead of the national vote October 15.
Earlier, the Polish Government spokesman Piotr Muller said it was highly likely that some form of checks at the Slovak border would be introduced as it has been crossed by migrants using the Balkans route to illegally enter the EU.
Muller also confirmed that similar controls could begin on the border with Germany over fears that migrants who have recently arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa could seek to enter Poland. He said consultations will be held with Germany before any such action was taken but added that whatever Poland’s decision, it would be “sovereign”.
Poland’s Border Guards spokeswoman Anna Michalska told Brussels Signal that the authority “has detected a marked increase in the flow of illegal migrants from Slovakia”.
She pointed out that, as there were no controls on that border, the guards were limited to “selective checks on vehicles and checking the legality of documentation entitling visitors to be in Polish territory”.
She also revealed that the Border Guards this year had detained 544 illegal migrants close to the Czech and Slovakian borders, more than four times the 122 held last year. Most of those stopped, some 450, had entered through Slovakia whereas last year that figure was just 60.
The Polish Government’s move comes in the wake of Faeser’s recent announcement that Berlin was considering introducing checks on its borders with Poland and the Czech Republic.
Scholz also remarked on the issue in a speech on September 23 during which he said Germany was concerned about reports of irregularities in the issuing of Schengen visas by Polish consulates outside the country.
His remarks were slammed by the Polish foreign minister Zbigniew Rau on September 25, who accused Germany of seeking to interfere in Poland’s general election campaigns ahead of the national vote.