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February 1997, Volume 4, Number 2

Poland To Tighten Borders

A Polish inter-ministerial work group met on January 15, 1997 to discuss how to combat illegal immigration, organized crime and drug smuggling. The government plans to hire an additional 2,000 border guards in 1997.

Between 1994 and 1996, Polish border guards apprehended about 15,000 illegal immigrants each year. Another 11,000 people were returned to Poland in 1996 after unsuccessful attempts to enter Germany. Most of foreigners enter Poland from the east and are smuggled in and through Poland by professional guides.

The Minister of Internal Affairs and Administration stressed that the Polish border infrastructure should be prepared for integration into the European Union, including enlarging present border crossings and opening new ones.

Russia is expected to sign a readmission agreement with Poland within the next few months, which will be followed by the introduction of visa-free travel between the two countries. The agreement calls for illegal immigrants who enter Poland from Russia to be returned to Russia.

In 1996, Russians did not want a readmission policy because they feared the agreement would lead the deportation of large numbers of persons who transited Russia en route to Poland. Poland told Russian officials that only 5,000 people were sent back to the Ukraine from Poland during 1996, which seemed to alleviate the Russian concerns about mass deportations.

Some 117,500 Poles applied for visas to visit the US in FY96 and 73,500 received visas. Between 1987 and 1996, some 60,000 Poles won immigration visas in the US visa lottery.

Ukraine announced that it detained 7,200 illegal immigrants--mostly from Russia and Belarus--at its borders, down 30 percent from 1995. There are an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 illegal immigrants in Ukraine.

Lithuania announced that it detained 1,520 illegal migrants in 1996, a seven percent drop compared with 1995.

The Czech Republic in 1996 had a per capita GDP of about $5,000, followed by Hungary at $3,500 and Poland at $3,000. In Bulgaria and Romania, per capita GDPs are about $2,000 and in Albania, about $800.

These differences are reflected in wages and emigration pressures. Average monthly salaries in Poland are about $300, compared with $50 in Bulgaria. An estimated 300,000 to 500,000 Bulgarians emigrated since 1990, some by purchasing a ticket to a country such as the Dominican Republic that does not require an entry visa and then requesting asylum when the plane stops in western Europe. Most European countries require entry visas from Bulgarians, Romanians and Albanians.

"Miller for Stricter Controls on Eastern Border," Polish News Bulletin, January 16, 1997. "Poland pledges crackdown on immigrants from east," Reuters, January 8, 1997. "Polish-Russian Relations: A New Era?" Polish News Bulletin, January 2, 1997.