WARSAW, Poland – Poland’s influential Catholic Church on Monday called for humanitarian aid to migrants from Iraq, Syria and elsewhere who want to reach Europe via Belarus to Poland.
Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, the president of the Polish Bishops’ Conference, called for permission to set up humanitarian corridors to control the resettlement of refugees and end a chaotic migration “by smugglers”.
Church authorities have largely joined the Conservative government of Poland, and the statement appeared to be an unusual accusation of how the state authorities dealt with the migration crisis.
Poland reacted harshly to the massive migration by refusing migrants asylum applications and pushing some back across the border into Belarus. These policies violate international law, but the Polish government argues that it must protect the country’s borders and security in the face of a “hybrid war” attack from Belarus.
People are trapped at the border, suffering from thirst, hunger and exhaustion. There have been reports of several deaths from exposure.
“The right and the duty to defend the national borders can be reconciled with helping people in dramatic situations,” wrote Gadecki in his appeal.
Poland’s right-wing government accuses Belarus of facilitating large-scale immigration to Poland in order to create instability in the European Union. Poland and other EU countries – particularly Lithuania and Latvia, which also border Belarus and migrants have entered their countries – believe this is a revenge for EU sanctions against the government of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Senior government officials have portrayed some of the migrants as dangerous criminals, terrorists, or people with sexual perversions. Those Poles who criticize the government’s actions have been accused of taking the side of Lukashenko against their own nation.
Gadecki said authorities are required to recognize potential threats from people crossing the country’s borders, but they should not stigmatize newcomers with harmful generalizations.
He reminded of the Christian duty to help migrants and refugees.
He also thanked the Afghans who were evacuated by the Polish authorities when the Taliban took control of Kabul.