Just a year ago, Poland was hit by a massive wave of migrants, mainly from Iraq and Syria, who tried to cross the border illegally from Belarus. Today, a similar offensive is feared by the Polish government, which plans to strengthen its border with the enclave of the Russian oblast of Kaliningrad.
Throughout 2021, Poland has had to deal with a continual flow of migrants—tens of thousands over several months, with a peak of 16,000 in October 2021 alone, mostly young men, and almost no women or children. Polish parliamentarians ended up voting, against the advice of the European Union, in favour of erecting an anti-migrant barrier more than 200 km long, while a state of emergency was declared.
At the time, the Polish government had no doubt that the offensive, which was conducted from Belarus and orchestrated by Russia, was in fact an attempt to cause destabilisation. Consequently, a year later in October 2022, when Moscow announced its intention to abolish the requirement of tourist visas for a number of Middle Eastern countries without reciprocity, concern arose in Warsaw that an operation similar to that of 2021 would be repeated, albeit under slightly different conditions.
This time, it is no longer Belarus that is at the forefront of the Russian offensive, but the territory of the enclave of Kaliningrad, formerly Koenigsberg. This remnant of the former German province of East Prussia was awarded to the USSR in 1945 and is now home to Russia’s western fleet in the Baltic Sea. Today, the population of the oblast amounts to one million inhabitants. Following Moscow’s decision on visas, landing conditions at Kaliningrad airport have been relaxed, making it possible for ‘tourists’ from the Middle East to arrive there, potentially mixed with Ukrainian refugees from Kherson. The head of Kaliningrad airport said the measure would mainly concern flights from countries in the Persian Gulf and Asia, including the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
The Polish government has therefore decided to build a new anti-migrant ‘wall,’ but this time along the border that Poland shares with the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad. Polish Minister of Defense Mariusz Błaszczak made the decision official on November 2nd. The barrier, in fact, will be less like a wall and more like a fence with electronic surveillance. The Polish authorities are defending themselves by explaining that this is a purely preventive measure for the time being, insofar as no illegal crossing of the small border between Poland and the Russian oblast has yet been observed.