Italy and France have set up humanitarian corridors for Syrian war refugees. In Poland, the initiative of the Catholic Church has so far failed because of the government. The latter fears otherwise a "social catastrophe".
Poland’s government slows down and slows down. For a year now, the Catholic Church and refugee organizations in Warsaw have been campaigning for a "humanitarian corridor" for Syrian war victims. Following the Italian example, they want to help refugee families who are under a particularly heavy load. But the national conservative Prime Minister Beata Szydlo has so far not allowed a single one into the country.
Fear of "social catastrophe"
Instead of allowing the church to accept refugees from the Middle East, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party stokes fears of people from other cultures. Its leader, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, recently warned that if a large group of them came to Poland, "we would have to change our culture completely, and the level of security in our country would drop radically". Immigration of Muslims brings not only terrorism but "a social catastrophe," he told the newspaper Gazeta Polska Codziennie.
Bishops began talks with relevant ministries on a humanitarian corridor. The government may want to let Syrians into the country for "short stays to recover," Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowsk gave them hope at a press conference Tuesday. But government spokesman Rafel Bochenek meanwhile rowed back. The attitude of the cabinet had not changed. He said that they wanted to continue to help "on the ground in the Middle East. "This is the most effective aid," says Bochenek.
Contract with Church in Need
In front of running cameras, the prime minister had concluded an agreement with the Polish branch of the papal relief organization "Aid to the Church in Need" in early March. 360.000 euros she provided at the time for the reconstruction and operation of a hospital in Aleppo, Syria. That suggested Szydlo was siding with the church on the refugee ie. Surprisingly, the head of the Polish department of "Church in Need", Waldemar Cislo, even declared on this occasion that there is no need for a humanitarian corridor to Poland.
In doing so, he clearly deviated from the course of the bishops’ conference.
Warsaw archbishop promotes welcoming refugees
Cardinal Kazimierz Nycz, in particular, tirelessly promotes Poland’s acceptance of refugees from Syria. "For me, the most important thing is to finally support people who need humanitarian aid," said the Archbishop of Warsaw. "We wait and rejoice that recently there have been certain signals from the government." In fact, the prime minister did not rule out a humanitarian corridor.
Nycz wants to bring in especially children who lost their parents in the war and refugees who are seriously ill. In doing so, he is following the example of the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio. Together with the Bishops’ Conference and Protestant churches, the latter had signed a humanitarian corridor with Italy’s government in 2016 for almost 1.000 Syrian refugees negotiated. Italy’s embassy in the Lebanese capital Beirut distributed visas to refugee families in need of special assistance. The church sponsors of the initiative finance the upkeep of the families in Italy.
France also followed suit. In March, then-President Francois Hollande and representatives of various organizations signed an agreement on a humanitarian corridor for 500 refugees from Syria. Also in Spain, according to Sant’Egidio, a similar project is being prepared.
Government shies away from open confrontation
Szydlo will not go on an open confrontation course with the bishops on the refugee ie – even if a majority of Poles do not want to take in Syrians, according to polls. The head of the government is a devout Catholic. Her son Tymoteusz was ordained a few days ago in Bielsko-Biala in southern Poland. Putting talks with church on the back burner – but it can do that very well.
According to Polish media reports, the Vatican ambassador in Warsaw, Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, has also intervened. He reportedly asked Szydlo in a letter for help for refugees, citing the Italian corridor as an example.