EU must close borders in face of 'migrant surge', says Poland's ruling PiS party
WARSAW : The European Union should deal with a surge in migrants by sealing its borders and rejecting any idea of relocating them within the bloc, Poland's ruling party said on Tuesday as it takes a tough stance on migration before an election.
The ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, facing a challenge from a far-right party, said that Poland risks being overwhelmed by migrants like the Italian island of Lampedusa, where migrant boats often land after crossing the Mediterranean from the coast of North Africa, if they are not returned to power in elections on Oct. 15.
PiS leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski told a news conference, "Lampedusa is only a kind of symbol of a situation that threatens the whole of Europe, including Poland."
"The only way to fight this kind of - it must be called this - invasion - is to actually, realistically seal the borders and make decisions to return those who crossed the borders to their home countries, or some other solution, but always related to getting rid of them."
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday visited the Italian island of Lampedusa, which is struggling with a surge in migrant arrivals, and promised a 10-point EU action plan to help Italy deal with the situation.
Kaczynski said that any announcement of the relocation of illegal migrants is an "encouragement to traffic people."
His comments come as the government faces opposition accusations that it was complicit in a system in which migrants received visas at an accelerated pace without proper checks after paying intermediaries.
They also come amidst a growing weariness with refugees from neighbouring Ukraine among some Poles who feel the government has gone too far in extending social benefits and other aid to those fleeing the war as well as anger among farmers who say Ukrainian grain imports hurt their prices.
Poland last week banned Ukrainian grain imports.
Poland is some 1 million Ukrainian refugees. While Poles' overall attitudes to them remain positive and support for Kyiv's war effort is almost unanimous, research shows that critical views are becoming more widespread.
(Reporting by Pawel Florkiewicz; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)