Polish prosecutors have charged seven people in the visa-issuing corruption scandal that has led to the dismissal of a deputy foreign minister and calls for the resignation of the foreign minister.
At a press conference in Warsaw on September 14, the spokesman for the prosecution service revealed that the investigation, which began in March, found that illicit payments had been extracted for accelerating the processing of hundreds of visa applications. These were submitted to Polish consulates in India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, the Philippines and Qatar.
The corruption probe examined the relationship between recruitment companies used by foreign workers and Polish consular services abroad. It looked into allegations that intermediaries took illicit payments from individuals seeking entry visas
News outlet Onet.pl published a story claiming that Piotr Wawrzyk, a deputy foreign minister who was fired on August 31, had been pressuring the Polish consular service in India for the speedy processing of hundreds of visa applications. The portal has come into possession of emails allegedly from Wawrzyk to his consulates with lists of applicants to be processed as a priority.
The Onet story cites an example of a large film crew from India that on investigation was found to have included many individuals who had never had anything to do with Bollywood or any other filming outlet.
The portal claims the US security services alerted their Polish counterparts to the irregularities after it was discovered that some individuals with Polish Schengen visas had found their way to Mexico from where they attempted to illegally enter the US.
Polish authorities have denied that they found out about the visa irregularities from the US.
On September 4, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, commenting on Wawrzyk’s dismissal, acknowledged that the corruption probe had resulted in the action taken against the minister.
Wawrzyk was the official responsible for piloting a draft regulation concerning visa facilitation for temporary workers from about 20 Asian and Middle East countries, including Islamic states. That was withdrawn after criticism from the opposition. Wawrzyk’s proposed regulation referred to employing up to 400,000 foreign workers in Poland.
According to official figures, in 2022 there were 200,000 migrant arrivals in Poland and almost 135,000 work permits issued.
The ruling conservatives (PiS) has been resisting any relocation of migrants from other European Union countries and has initiated a referendum question on the EU Migration Pact, which will take place on October 15, the same day as the Polish general elections.
The opposition block led by Donald Tusk claims the PiS has allowed hundreds of thousands of migrants into Europe, a figure it has yet to prove. The Onet story mentions hundreds of questionable applications.
Jan Grabiec MP, the press spokesman for the largest opposition party, the PO, told Brussels Signal: “Data is not available on how many of the work permits issued have actually been used, giving rise to suspicions about how migrants may be using them simply to enter the country rather than actually work.”
Tusk took to social media to ask the government what legal action is being taken about the dismissed minister and for how long the Polish authorities have known about the alleged practices that have now come to light. He has also demanded the resignation of foreign minister Zbigniew Rau for allegedly failing to react.
PiS’s rivals on the Right, the Confederation party, has called for the setting up of an official Parliamentary Investigative Committee to examine the visa-issuing scandal.
It said the investigation should cover the whole of Poland’s migration policy which, according to Confederation, is inconsistent because the rhetoric concerning limiting migration has not been matched by actual practice.
The leader of Confederation’s parliamentary faction, Krzysztof Bosak, said in a social media post that he was convinced “there was clear determination” to ensure that “channels for mass migration were…open”. He said that the whole narrative of migration being under control was a “lie” since the work-visa applications were not subject to anything more than “formal controls”.
Government spokesman Piotr Mueller has defended the government’s position, stating that it was not prepared to tolerate any abuses of the migration system nor any relaxation of stringent controls over who enters the country. He added that the corruption probe in the foreign affairs ministry was evidence of that.
Mueller also said “it was disingenuous to conflate the issue of visas for foreign workers with that of illegal migration”.
Late on September 14 Morawiecki released a video message in which he expressed the government’s opposition to illegal migration and called the events taking place in Lampedusa, where many thousands of migrants have flooded the Italian island, an “invasion”.
He also reminded voters that the previous liberal government led by Tusk had consented to a compulsory relocation of migrants scheme back in 2015.