The new walls are going up
By Ian Traynor
November 9, 1990
Driving from Vienna to Czechoslovakia or Hungary is infinitely easier now than it was a month ago. British visitors, like most other West Europeans, can pass easily, visas are no longer required. The European Common House in action.
But you quickly realize that the rules are not the same for everyone, and certainly not for traffic in the other direction. In the border areas, exactly one year after the Berlin Wall broke, there are scenes that are more reminiscent of the US-Mexico border – armed Austrian troops on patrol to prevent foreigners from the East from entering.
In Brussels, Eurocrats shiver as they wonder what to do with the massed masses of the late 20th century – the “illegals” from the East knocking on the door. Freedom of movement, which sine qua non of the European Community, has its limit. The limit is the old Iron Curtain, which, it turns out, hasn’t been completely dismantled, unless, of course, you’re German.
Democratic values, human rights, free elections and soaring crime rates – all of these are now commonplace in east and west. But a year after the upheavals that transformed the post-war order in Europe, East European poverty and indebtedness are becoming the greatest threat to the new democracy.
“It is particularly important that we together overcome the division between a rich Europe and a poor Europe, a grade A and a B grade Europe,” Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki warned this week. He echoed the remarks made a few days earlier by the West German Foreign Minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, who declared: “After the fall of the stone wall and barbed wire, the West is faced with the question of if he wants to authorize his replacement. by a chasm of different living standards, economic development, ecological dispositions and different social justice.
A year after the collapse of communism, the queue – this quintessential symbol of the Soviet system – is not getting longer and shorter: queues for sugar, queues for bread. Mostly queues for visas and a ticket to the west.
Poland fears wave of Soviet refugees: ruined nation would bear the brunt of mass exodus
By Ian Traynor in Warsaw
November 30, 1990
Ten red arrows dominate a small office of the Polish Ministry of the Interior. They also dominate the brooding spirit of Colonel Zbigniew Skocylas, a bearded and burly 62-year-old man who patrols the office in combat fatigues like Polish peasant Fidel Castro.
The 10 arrows are stenciled on a large map of Europe hanging on the wall. Two points in the Leningrad region in Scandinavia, another in the Ukraine in Romania. Seven, the reason for Colonel Skocylas’s unease from western Soviet Union to Poland.
“We just want to imagine how the big tide will come,” said the colonel, a former paratrooper, who came out of retirement a month ago to head the ministry’s new immigration office. It was created specifically to make emergency arrangements for the dreaded influx of Russians across Poland’s eastern border if the Soviet famine predicted this winter coincides with liberal travel legislation for Soviet citizens.
“We expect hundreds of thousands of people to come to Poland if they receive passports. Just look at the map. The road to the west has not changed for centuries Moscow, Warsaw, Berlin, Paris. If the Russians start arriving, the overwhelming mass must pass through Polish territory.
The prospect of a mass exodus is a prospect no country relishes, hence the current Western campaign of winter aid to the Soviet Union. Poland, with its collapsing economy and huge external debt, is singularly ill-equipped to cope.
A by-product of a Soviet influx would further delay any hope of economic recovery. “There are already 60,000 to 70,000 Soviet citizens here as ‘tourists’ or traders. If Moscow sealed the borders, these people would want to stay. Then our situation would be desperate. We couldn’t afford to take 100,000. If the borders are not closed and, as is conceivable, a million Russians come, our budget would be sunk.
Colonel Skocylas says Poland could probably accommodate 20,000 to 30,000 Soviet migrants. It draws up emergency plans and organizes collection points for refugees. The few dozen barracks that will soon be released by the departing Red Army could be used.
There could also be a multitude of bona fide political asylum seekers. In Ukraine, with its large Polish minority, said the colonel, the struggle between secessionists and centralists could see repression: “In that case, many will come here with good refugee arguments.
Warsaw would also be placed in an impossible position if the Polish minority in the Soviet Union, numbering around two million, sought to enter and apply for citizenship. Those who claim to be Poles would probably exceed two million.
“We have never had a refugee problem before,” said the colonel. “We thought Poland was the poorest country in Europe.”
Poland erects new iron curtain to stem eastern flooding
By Julian Borger at Terespol
February 16, 1993
The Ladas, Volgas and former Soviet tourist buses line runs for miles in each direction from the border post between Terespol in Poland and Brest in Belarus.
Russian and Belarusian traders crammed into each vehicle have a habit of waiting up to four days to go through customs, and they have enough food and books to avoid hunger and boredom. They run their engines from time to time to avoid freezing.
There is no doubt that the wait is worth it. “In one trip, I can earn five times what I could earn with a job in Belarus,” says Galina Mengaleva, who took a tourist bus from Minsk to sell wooden toys and clothes in a Warsaw market. She leaves with fruit for her family and dollars.
This may be one of his last business trips. Ministers from 35 European countries met in Budapest yesterday to agree on measures to stem the flow of illegal migrants through Eastern Europe to the West. The Polish government is planning strict restrictions on cross-border traffic that will affect not only people from the former Soviet Union, but also Romanians, Bulgarians and refugees from the former Yugoslavia.
The new measures are, in part, a response to Germany’s plans to limit the reception of refugees. Bonn intends to deny asylum to refugees who travel to Germany via other countries. Poland fears that it will soon have to deal with most of the asylum seekers in the region.
Last year the country was a conduit for around 100,000 refugees heading to Germany. If the Bundestag approves the new laws, these people could be sent back to Poland.
According to the Polish press, the German Interior Ministry made it clear that rapprochement with the European Community depended on measures taken by Warsaw to limit immigration.