When asked about the information that Deputy Minister of Agriculture Lech Kołakowski was lobbying the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to bring one million foreigners to Poland to work in agriculture, Minister of Agriculture Robert Telus replied that he “has full trust in him, although he will talk to him about it.” The deputy minister, as reported by Telus, is on sick leave. On that day, “Gazeta Wyborcza”, describing subsequent threads of the visa scandal, reported that “the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Interior and Administration, the Ministry of Agriculture and the secret services knew about the case.”
An investigation by the prosecutor’s office and the Central Anticorruption Bureau is ongoing into irregularities in submitting visa applications. The opposition points to corruption on this issue and claims that “350,000 visas issued to migrants from African and Middle Eastern countries may raise suspicions.” Videos are published on the Internet in which Asians and Africans receive instructions on what to do to obtain a visa to Poland quickly and efficiently, and one of the men boasts that it took him six hours.
According to Onet, the dismissed deputy minister of foreign affairs, Piotr Wawrzyk, allegedly helped create one of the illegal channels for transporting immigrants. Transfer to America – as reported – cost up to forty thousand dollars. One of the immigrant groups from India She was supposed to pose as a Bollywood film crew.
“GW”: there were interventions from entrepreneurs and the Ministry of Agriculture
On Friday, journalists from “Gazeta Wyborcza” wrote that “there is no longer any doubt that the Minister of Foreign Affairs, PiS MP and leader of the Łódź electoral list Zbigniew Rau knew about the trade in Polish visas” because “he received interventions not only from business organizations – such as the ‘Lewiatan’ Confederation or the Office of the Ombudsman for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises – but also from the Ministry of Agriculture.”
The daily described that the former head of the Ministry of Agriculture, Henryk Kowalczyk, drew attention to “problems with obtaining visas for foreigners wanting to work in the agricultural sector.” On this issue, as written, consultations were held on January 1 and March 29 this year between the ministries of foreign affairs, agriculture and interior affairs and administration. It was noted that the latter ministry is headed by coordinators of special services.
It was further reported that the documentation received from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs by Civic Coalition MPs Michał Szczerba and Dariusz Joński “shows that there was a huge mess in the visa issuance system”, which “was made worse by the transfer of some services to external companies.”
And – as “GW” writes – “it was this system that was corruption-generating”, which was to be raised by Polish entrepreneurs who “in their interventions to increase the number of visas issued point to the lack of labor as one of the greatest barriers to the development of our economy.”
Journalists from “Wyborcza” described that entrepreneurs “are surprised by the situation in which, on the one hand, Polish authorities issue work permits, and on the other hand, consulates do not issue visas or issue them after several months or a year.” “One of the companies involved in gas and oil extraction emphasizes that it submitted a request for 120 welders, but only some of them received visas. At the same time, the company must perform the contract,” it was written.
The report of the Confederation of Employers “Lewiatan”, quoted by the daily, shows that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has introduced “an illegible system with unclear formal requirements, and the digitization of services and the use of outsourcing have additionally led to the blocking of official ways of obtaining work visas.”
It was added that the report lists consulates with which it is impossible to contact them by phone, and also presents “pathological and corruption-prone situations and indicates specific establishments where legally obtaining a visa is difficult or even impossible.”
Will the deputy minister of agriculture resign?
“Gazeta Wyborcza” reported on Thursday that the deputy minister of agriculture and member of parliament from the PiS club, Lech Kołakowski, “was to lobby the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for ‘opening the Polish market to workers from Asian and African countries’.”
On Friday, “GW” also mentioned that Kołakowski “wrote that because of… war in Ukraine Polish agriculture suffers from a lack of workers” and also “claimed that, among other things, consulates in Tashkent (Uzbekistan) and Jakarta (Indonesia) are the ones that block the issuance of visas.” Journalists reported that Kołakowski “demanded consent to issue documents allowing one million people to work in our country.”
The head of the Ministry of Agriculture, Robert Telus, was asked on Friday on Radio Zet whether Kołakowski would be dismissed as a result. He replied that he had a letter from September 22, 2022. – I will read the beginning of this letter: “The Association of Polish Nurserymen, representing the nursery and horticultural sector, asked for support in recruiting employees for seasonal work on the farm.” This is a letter sent by (Deputy) Minister Kołakowski to Minister Rau – replied Telus.
– He’s not a lobbyist. Seasonal workers are needed in agriculture, he argued. – This is a letter sent by the association of Polish nurserymen and growers to the Ministry (of Agriculture) and the Ministry sent a letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is a beautiful response from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the consul is responsible for issuing visas – he described.
When asked who responded to this letter, Telus replied that it was Piotr Wawrzyk.
Returning to the topic of Lech Kołakowski, Telus was asked whether he trusted the deputy minister. – I trust all my ministers – he replied. He announced that he would talk to Kołakowski. – He has been sick for a long time. I’ll talk to him, he said.
When asked how long Kołakowski has been on sick leave, the minister replied: – I don’t know, it’s been about two weeks.
He denied that it was related to the visa scandal. – No, of course, in life. Certainly, one hundred percent, one hundred fifty percent, he assured. – I will talk, I will check the situation. Everything from the documents shows that Minister Kołakowski simply sent the letter he received from the association of nurseries and growers – he added.
Lech Kołakowski in 2020 left the PiS club, but in July 2021 he returned to it (as a member of the Republican Party). He then received a job at the state-owned Bank Gospodarstwa Krajowego. When asked then how much his salary was and whether his employment was related to his return to PiS structures, Kołakowski avoided a specific answer. He claimed that he was employed by BGK to help farmers. At the end of November 2021 became deputy minister of agriculture.
Gazeta Wyborcza, Radio Zet, tvn24.pl
Main photo source: Rafał Guz/PAP