Donald Tusk, Poland’s new prime minister, said mass migration was a civilisational threat in a Sunday speech.
“Please believe me – and I say this also looking at what is happening in the US today – this is a question of the survival of our Western civilisation,” Tusk said, according to Notes from Poland. “We [must] wake up and understand that we have to protect our territory, our borders, that if we are open to all forms of migration without any control, our world will collapse.”
Tusk, a liberal, took over as PM in December after eight years of rule by the Right-wing Law and Justice party, and he is widely viewed as a foil to Poland’s past conservative leadership on a host of issues, including his pro-EU position. Thus his strong anti-immigration remarks come as something of a surprise.
The comments came in response to a question about the country’s border with Belarus, a hotspot for illegal immigration of African and Middle Eastern migrants into Poland. The Polish government has handled this through “pushbacks” of migrants back into Belarus, drawing the ire of humans rights organisations. More than 6,000 pushbacks occurred over the past six months.
“The first and most important task of the Polish state when it comes to the situation at the border is to protect the border, including from illegal migration,” Tusk has said.
The Polish PM said that he aims to restrict illegal immigration in a humane way and ensure that pushbacks are not necessary, but that he “will not make any decision that will recklessly result in our border becoming less tight than it is now”. He blamed the country’s immigration problem on alleged corruption and dysfunction by the previous ruling party.
This isn’t the first time Tusk has taken a harsh tone on immigration. In the summer, he sharply criticised the ruling party for letting in migrants from “Islamic countries”, and last month he said “Poland will not accept a single migrant under EU relocation scheme”, earning himself comparisons to Donald Trump.
During his campaign last year, Tusk drew on anti-immigration themes and called for Poland to regain control of its borders, drawing sharp criticism from the country’s Left wing for “competing with the far Right”.
Tusk’s vows to restrict illegal immigration, and his reference to the US border crisis, come amid a swelling tide of anti-immigration sentiments across the West. The prime minister said that his government “will do what we have to in order not to violate [legal] standards and to prevent situations that violate the core of humanitarianism…It cannot be that people are dying on the Polish side of the border”.