Berlin is worried about the flow of immigrants from Poland and the Czech Republic, amid growing tensions with Warsaw
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has demanded that Warsaw clarify allegations about a visa-for-cash scheme supposedly run by Polish officials. He also expressed support for implementing "additional measures" at the borders with Poland and the Czech Republic to address the reportedly increasing number of new arrivals coming to Germany through these countries.
"Absurd numbers of visas are being issued" to migrants from outside the EU in Poland, Scholz said at a Social Democratic Party rally in the German state of Hesse last Saturday. He also said that the Polish authorities could "misuse" the visa mechanism.
Earlier, Poland's center-right Civic Platform accused the ruling Law and Justice party of tolerating a corruption scheme that allegedly illegally sold Polish visas at consulates around the world.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki hit back, accusing the Civic Platform leader, Donald Tusk, of exaggerating the issue. He admitted, however, that the government had discovered "irregularities involving several hundred visas."
Berlin has announced its own measures to tackle the issue. German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said last week that her ministry was considering the introduction of short-term stationary controls at the border with Poland and the Czech Republic in an attempt to fight human trafficking.
According to German media, the eastern state of Brandenburg, which borders Poland, saw an average of 35 illegal immigrants forwarded to the police per day in August. In September, this number grew to 57. "The establishment of stationary border controls is therefore more urgent than ever, and the Federal Minister of the Interior has my support," the regional interior minister, Michael Stuebgen, said.
Speaking at another rally in Bavaria, Scholz said the number of new arrivals has "dramatically increased."
"I don't want [people] just to be waved through from Poland, and then afterwards we have a discussion about our asylum policy," he said.
Asylum seekers coming from Poland should "be registered there and undergo an asylum procedure there," he said, adding that the alleged visas-for-cash scheme "only makes the problem worse."
"The visa scandal that is taking place in Poland needs to be clarified," Scholz said.
The issue drew the attention of Brussels as well. Although the EU Commission refused to comment on whether it received any complaints from Berlin, Anitta Hipper, the commission's spokesperson for home affairs, called the alleged visa fraud "very concerning," the Financial Times reported on Sunday. The EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, also asked Warsaw for clarifications, she added.
The developments come as the EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, warned that immigration could become a "dissolving force" for the 27-nation bloc because some member states simply "don't want to accept people from outside." He also insisted that some EU states need an influx of migrants due to "low demographic growth" and called the situation a "paradox."