Poland may change visa rules to protect Belarusians from persecution

The rules for visa issuance in Poland might be revised to ensure that the possession of a Pole’s Card by a person crossing the border cannot be determined from a visa stamp. “The modifications to the visa issuance process are among the measures taken to alleviate the persecution of the Polish minority in Belarus,” Kristina Rikhter, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya’s advisor on legal affairs, commented on the decision of the Polish Interior Ministry.

“At present, the Ministry’s draft resolution is undergoing public consultations and must receive approval from the relevant commissions. At the moment, it has neither been signed nor approved,” explains Kristina. However, it is crucial to emphasize that even at this stage this step holds significant importance for Belarusians with Polish roots. Previously, Belarusians holding the Pole’s Card received the D18 mark on their visa stickers. This gave regime officials a clue about a person’s Polish roots and their possession of the Pole’s Card, leading to numerous inquiries and drawing unwanted attention. At the border, some Belarusians were even presented with the option to relinquish the Pole’s Card “voluntarily”.

With the new changes, visas will be assigned the D23 code. That means it will be more difficult to distinguish people with such visas from other visa holders, such as participants of the Poland Business Harbor program, their family members, and tourists. For Belarusians, this indeed is a substantial change, as even a single border crossing with a visa bearing the D18 mark can subject one to scrutiny by the regime’s officials. “We have brought up this issue at the working group meetings at the Polish Ministry of Internal Affairs and are glad that our proposal will be implemented,” says Kristina Rikhter.

For almost its entire existence, the Lukashenko regime has maintained a hostile stance towards people of Polish origin. In the aftermath of 2020, all Polish schools in Belarus were closed, and leaders of Polish associations, including Andrzej Poczobut, were sentenced to prison terms. The proposed changes to the visa issuance for Belarusians with Polish roots will be a positive step in the right direction, helping to alleviate the persecution of the Polish minority in Belarus.

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