Will Poland go full open borders? Hundreds of NGOs and celebrities appeal to Donald Tusk to stop ‘pushbacks’

Poland’s new left-liberal government is under pressure to open the borders to masses of illegal migrants

editor: Grzegorz Adamczyk
author: Magdalena Chrzczonowicz
Military watching the start of work on the first part of some 180 kilometers of a 5.5 meter high metal wall intended to block migrants pushed by Belarus, in what the European Union calls a "hybrid attack," from crossing illegally into EU territory, in Tolcze, near Kuznica, Poland, on the Polish side of the border with Belarus on, Thursday, Jan. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

Poland has long been celebrated by conservatives for being an ethnically and culturally homogenous country that rejected open borders, but that may soon change.

Over 100 civil society organizations and 550 celebrities and notables have signed a petition delivered to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk calling for the end to “pushbacks” on the Polish-Belarusian border, arguing that these do not have a humanitarian, legal or moral basis.

The appeal for stopping of pushbacks is not the first of its kind, but it is the first addressed to Tusk in his new role. His party had campaigned during the election on ending what it argued to be inhumane practices on the Polish-Belarusian border. 

One of the signatories of the letter is the film director Agnieszka Holland, whose film “Green Border” was seen by over 700,000 Poles in cinemas and caused a storm of protest from many for dehumanizing border guards and conveying the false image that all those who crossed the border illegally were refugees. 

The petition claims that human rights continue to be violated on the Polish-Belarusian border and that those who cross the border are often pushed back by border guards, which violates the rights of the individuals concerned. It also argues that it is inhumane to return these people to Belarus where they may be “tortured or imprisoned” and that “pushbacks” are a violation of the principles of the “rule of law.”

Since 2021, Poland has been hit by a wave of mass attempts at illegal crossings of its borders by illegal migrants whose actions have been facilitated by Belarus in retaliation for Poland’s sanctions against that country.

A border wall has been built along the Polish-Belarusian border to reduce the threat of illegal crossings, but attempts have continued. 

Several MPs from both Tusk’s Civic Platform (PO) party and the Left party have been helping NGOs attempting to deliver humanitarian and legal aid to the migrants. One of them, Iwona Hartwich, demanded that all of the migrants be let in when the crisis was at its worst.

She also called “for their identity to be established at a later date.”

Another MP, Franciszek Sterczyński, also delivered a bag of aid to migrants blocked from crossing the border. 

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