Poland Sets Conditions For Refugee Influx
“Promised Land” Germany is the main destination
WARSAW–For months, the refugee crisis has been a constant theme of Poland’s TV news programs. There have been harrowing images of drowning children, refugees crossing the Mediterranean aboard rubber rafts, being herded on and off trains and beaten by police. An endless stream of weary, bedraggled refugees with children in tow is regularly shown trudging on foot to “freedom and prosperity”. Syrians fleeing their war-torn country have been traveling through Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary, the border of the European Union.
There they easily penetrated a razor-wire barrier border and clashed with Hungarian police who ultimately let them enter the country. But the flood of refugees became so great that Hungary soon sealed off its border and used tear gas and water cannon to keep the invading refugees away from it. Rioting erupted when the many young Muslims toughs among them, men in their 20s and 30s with a glint of aggression in their eyes, responded by pelting Hungarian police with stones and anything else at hand. Croatia and other countries began tightening up their borders.
The refugee traffic had skyrocketed overnight after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany would welcome 800,000 refugees by the end of the year. The German government even released a video in Arabic and other languages showing a refugee being welcomed by German border officials giving him money, a place to stay and asking: “What else can we do for you?” The response was overwhelming. Thousands of refugees were soon pounding on Germany’s door, got welcomed in and began placing unforeseen strains on the country’s infrastructure.
Liberals applauded Merkel’s gesture as humane, compassionate and heart-warming but the refugee invasion soon got out of hand, and realists began viewing her generous offer as a politically ill-considered move. Seeing that Germany could not handle the crisis alone, with the support of the French president Merkel got the European Union to issue refugee quotas to its 28 member states. Poland originally offered to take 2,000, but was pressured by Brussels to accept many times that number.
The refugee invasion has been greatly expanded by the number of economic migrants among them who are not fleeing war zones in fear of their lives but only in search of a better life. More than half of the new arrivals were coming from impoverished countries such as Albania and Kosovo and exploiting the general mayhem to piggyback their way into the EU. There may also be individual Muslim terrorists among the crowds. For that reason Poles are much more willing to receive Syrian Christians than Muslims from whatever country.
Marches and demonstrations have been held in cities across Poland both in support of and in opposition to forced refugee quotas with opponents outnumbering those in favor. European Union Chairman, Luxembourger Jean-Claude Juncker, scolded Poland for its reluctance saying: “Twenty million Polish people are living outside Poland as a result of economic and political emigration.” He also praised the Germans at the Munich train station applauding and welcoming refugees.” But the German well-wishers soon disappeared as more and more refugees kept pouring in and Germany closed its border.
The Polish government, however, was not about to be blackmailed. “We will accept as many refugees as we are able,” replied Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz and laid down certain conditions. The prospective refugees must be properly screened to separate them from economic opportunists whose life is not threatened. And the EU’s external borders must be properly safeguarded. “Unless we find a way of stopping the illegal migration, soon there may be three to four million economic refugees knocking on Europe’s door,” warned Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna.”
For Poland, coping with the new influx may turn out to be a temporary problem, since nearly all the newcomers want to go to the “promised land” – affluent Germany which offers housing, jobs and the best welfare benefits. Many have refused to register in other countries fearing they would have to stay there. Even fairly well-to-do Denmark had to close a rail line to stop refugees fleeing to neighboring Germany.
The borderless travel of which the EU was so proud has ended, and police with canine backup patrolling newly built walls and razor-wire barriers in more than one country. After Hungary closed its borders, refugees found alternate routes into the EU via Slovenia and Croatia. If those countries also close their frontiers, the refugee flow may reroute itself via Romania and Ukraine through Poland, although that would involve travel through treacherous mountainous terrain.
At this stage it is impossible to predict how things will develop. If the influx continues, how will Germany and Europe in general cope with masses of difficult to integrate new arrivals? Will they end up in huge refugee camps or ethnic slums or will at least some of them get sent back to where they came from. Whatever the case, what is probably Europe’s biggest crisis since World War II is not likely to go away anytime soon.
By Robert Strybel
Our Warsaw Correspondent