viernes, 21 de abril de 2017

Poland follows Hungary’s footsteps in corralling migrants

Warsaw wants asylum seekers to be housed in converted shipping containers.

By Claudia Ciobanu

Polish Border Guard officers in Szeged, 170 kilometers southeast of Budapest, to aid Hungarian police in the Serbian border in 2015

Poland is mulling setting up special camps where asylum seekers would be housed in containers and kept behind fences in the event of another migration crisis, according to the country’s interior minister.

“The thing is to be ready for such a situation in the form of places in which those waiting for deportation would be kept who may try to break the law,” Mariusz Błaszczak told Polish radio on Tuesday. “That’s all it entails. Besides, there are similar container camps in France and in Germany.”

It’s a very similar approach to one adopted by Hungary, which has come under fire from the EU for its harsh approach to asylum seekers.

The camps are part of an overhaul of the asylum system to restrict migration planned by the country’s Law and Justice party (PiS) government. It would allow border guards to detain asylum seekers for up to 28 days along the border while their applications are processed, “which will prevent efforts to illegally move to Western Europe.”

A second initiative sets the rules for temporary migrant camps, including regulations allowing them to be housed in converted shipping containers, “in the event of a mass inflow of foreigners onto the territory of the Republic of Poland.”

The idea is popular politically. A recent survey by the CBOS organization found that 74 percent of Poles don’t want migrants from Africa or the Middle East in their country — among supporters of Law and Justice the figure was almost 90 percent.

PiS pulled out of an agreement the previous government had made to relocate some 7,000 asylum seekers to Poland.

NGOs and human rights groups are less impressed. Marta Górczyńska from the Helsinki Foundation said the planned changes in the asylum law were “concerning” because they could lead to “a systematic violation of rights of asylum seekers enshrined in the Geneva Convention of 1951 and EU law on asylum.” The foundation fears toughening up border procedures could see asylum seekers being detained.

In March, Hungary decided that asylum seekers would be held in detention camps and housed in converted shipping containers.

Hungary, a close ideological ally of Poland’s right-wing government, has been on the forefront of taking a tough approach to migrants and asylum seekers. The country bore the brunt of the 2015 migration crisis when hundreds of thousands of people passed through the Balkans on their way to Germany and Western Europe.

Although Poland wasn’t on the migration route, that didn’t stop PiS leader Jarosław Kaczyński from speaking out on migration, saying during the 2015 election campaign that migrants carry “parasites” and “very dangerous diseases long absent from Europe.”

Poland’s Prime Minister Beata Szydło at parliament in Warsaw

After winning the election, PiS pulled out of an agreement the previous government had made to relocate some 7,000 asylum seekers to Poland. Like Hungary and Austria, Poland has to date relocated no refugees through the EU’s refugee scheme, though Vienna recently announced a change of policy.

“We have no terrorist attacks in Poland because we withdrew from a plan approved by the previous government of accepting thousands of migrants, known as refugees,” Błaszczak told TVP Info last week.

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