The Polish parliament voted Thursday on a bill for a border wall with Belarus, a major escalation in its recent migrant dispute with its neighbor. Poland has accused Belarus of allowing Middle Eastern migrants to transit through the country and enter Poland as revenge for EU sanctions leveraged against Belarus earlier this year.
The Polish bill no. 1657 authorizes the wall in the name of state border security and empowers the Polish Minister of Internal Affairs to begin construction on border land obtained through the acquisition and purchase of private land if necessary. The bill describes plans for the wall that include a physical barrier, border guard security installations and infrastructure, and both electronic and telecommunication security measures within 200 meters of the Polish-Belarusian border. The bill also empowers the Polish government to expel asylum seekers who have entered Poland outside of legal entry channels.
The bill provides extensive justification for the barrier, stating that Poland has experienced increasing migratory pressure from nearly 10,000 border crossing attempts at the Polish-Belarusian border in 2021 alone, with foreign nationals originating from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Russia, Somalia, Tajikistan, Iran, and Turkey. The bill further claims that the Belarusian state is supporting and subsidizing this travel, with a goal of destabilizing the border of the Republic of Poland and the European Union more generally, and that the circumstances justify both a state of emergency and the immediate construction of a barrier.
Poland has come under criticism from international groups this year for unilaterally refusing to allow migrants to enter from Belarus, denying them the ability to seek asylum in Poland while forced to wait on the border. Both the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees all people the right to seek asylum and prohibits collective expulsion. It is expected that a full implementation of Thursday’s bill will be in violation of these agreements, and could result in legitimate claims for Polish asylum being denied without recourse.