The allegations, which were reported by Polish media outlets, claim that migrants paid up to $5,000 each to Polish consulates and private companies to expedite their work visa applications. The scheme reportedly involved corruption and fraud at the highest levels of the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which led to the dismissal of the deputy foreign minister, Piotr Wawrzyk, and the director of its legal service last week. The Polish Anti-Corruption Bureau also raided the foreign ministry as part of its investigation.
The scandal has sparked outrage and criticism from the opposition parties and the speaker of Poland’s upper house of parliament, Tomasz Grodzki, who said the issue was ruining the country’s reputation as a responsible democracy and jeopardizing its security. He called on the government to reveal what it knew about the scandal and how many visas were issued irregularly.
The Polish government, however, has denied that there is a widespread problem and accused the opposition of trying to stir up trouble ahead of the parliamentary elections that are due in a month’s time.
The ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) has been campaigning on an anti-immigration platform and is seeking an unprecedented third term in office. The government said only several hundred visas were issued in violation of the law and that it would terminate all contracts with outsourcing companies handling visa applications since 2011.
The scandal could also have implications for Poland’s relations with other EU member states, especially Germany, which has asked Poland to clarify how many visas were issued in the illegal program.
Germany is one of the main destinations for migrants who enter the Schengen area through Poland. The scandal could also affect Poland’s role in the ongoing dispute over grain supplies with Ukraine, which has filed lawsuits against Poland and two other EU countries for imposing restrictions on its exports.