Refugees Are a Chance for Us, They Can Enrich Our Culture

“We are a wealthy country with the possibility of organizing temporary centers for refugees who, coming from other cultures, can enrich us,” says Jacek Cichocki – Minister of the Interior in 2011 – 2013, who was our guest on December 1, 2021. He answered questions about the current situation on our eastern border in the context of the international situation.

Initially, the minister recalled the distinction made after World War II in the 1951 Refugee Convention, namely the division into migrants and refugees, which today seems quite outdated, taking into account the deteriorating living conditions, such as overpopulation or desertification. We also saw the map showing the migration routes to the European Union: Turkish-Greek, Mediterranean, Balkan and Eastern, so far functioning on the border with Ukraine.

We recalled the breakthrough year 2015, when, as a result of Turkey’s disappointed hopes for admission to the EU, Recep Erdoğan decided to allow refugees to leave Turkey. Half a million people moved towards the EU. Neither Greece nor Bulgaria were prepared for this. There was chaos, smugglers were making piles of money, there was no idea how to solve the crisis. At that time, Angela Merkel’s words: “we can do it!” constituted a humanitarian act. The refugees went to Germany.

Due to the repeated waves of migration, there is a need to develop an asylum-seeking strategy in the EU, so that the country decides whom to accept and whom not to.

When asked about not providing help to those in need, Jacek Cichocki drew attention to the fact that, according to the rules of the Refugee Convention, a person crossing the border illegally should be arrested and imprisoned. At the same time, refusing to help, pushing people out is also illegal, but the Greeks, the Spanish and the Italians have already used these methods, justifying them with the necessity of the so-called deep defense of their borders. The Polish border guard, along with the deteriorating weather conditions, stopped this practice against women and children, transporting them to transit centers and providing medical assistance.

The amendment to the law in Poland allows people to be pushed out, and the border guards take orders. It is the politicians who are responsible for bending the law,

exacerbating the situation and the humanitarian crisis itself. It was only in mid-November that the Polish authorities began to cooperate with EU agencies and undertook diplomatic action. The conversation between Angela Merkel and Alexander Łukashenka was painful not only for us, but also for the Belarusian opposition, because it was a dialogue with the torturer.

Minister Cichocki included the decision to strengthen the border in September and to introduce a state of emergency among the positive elements of our authorities’ actions. On the other hand, their biggest mistakes are not allowing journalists to the zone, not involving Frontex to cooperate, and using the migration crisis to play internal political games. He particularly pointed out that fueling fear of migrants and stigmatizing them is utterly unacceptable.Nobody leaves their home without a reason. The special services are properly trained to check whether, for example, terrorists enter the EU with refugees. Generalizing is a scandal!

Our guest emphasized that we should have organized transit camps, admitted those in need and started a diplomatic campaign immediately. We should have called for sanctions against leasing companies quickly and we should have strived to block the operation of the Belarusian services, because it was Alexander Lukashenka who established offices in Iraq where air tickets were sold and accommodation in Minsk was offered, promising an easy route to Germany. Nobody mentioned the need for an entry visa.

When asked how many refugees we could accept, Jacek Cichocki referred to our ability to organize care for five to ten thousand people, which may be needed, for example, in the event of a natural disaster.

As for the verification of refugees who for various reasons do not have documents, the guest mentioned the methods of checking migrants already developed by Frontex employees.

At the end, the minister emphasized that the migration problem would not leave us anymore, and that the eastern route would most likely become widespread. Our task will be conscious political choices and contact with migration centers, with people who are looking for a safe home, or engaging in specific help (for example, the Crisis Intervention Point organized by the KIK).

We can not only help those in need, but also enrich ourselves with their cultural diversity.