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AFP: Chechen refugees surge into Poland before visa regime changes

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  • Norbert Strade
    Chechen refugees surge into Poland before visa regime changes 01 October 2003 Hundreds of Chechen refugees have flooded into Poland in recent weeks, seeking to
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 1, 2003
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      Chechen refugees surge into Poland before visa regime changes

      01 October 2003


      Hundreds of Chechen refugees have flooded into Poland in recent weeks,
      seeking to beat the introduction of a new visa system, a top interior
      ministry official said on Wednesday.

      From today holders of Russian passports, including Chechens, require
      visas to enter Poland as part of Warsaw's preparations for entry to the
      European Union next year.

      According to the official, Jan Wegrzynla, some 800 asylum seekers
      arrived in Terespol, a town on the border with Belarus, last month. The
      number of Chechens entering the country so far this year has already
      reached 3,600, compared with 3,200 for the whole of 2002.

      "Russian citizens of Chechen nationality could until midnight on Tuesday
      enter Poland without a visa," he told AFP.

      "From now on they must have, like all Russian citizens, an entry visa to
      Poland, which will complicate their situation."

      He said that Chechen asylum seekers had tended to take buses from the
      capital Grozny to Brest, a Belarussian town close to the Polish border,
      taking a train from there to Terespol, where they made their asylum
      application.

      After the introduction of visas on Wednesday they have to apply for a
      visa for Poland at the Polish consulates in Moscow or Minsk.

      The biggest of 10 countries due to join the European Union on May 1
      2004, Poland introduced new visa requirements for citizens of its
      eastern neighbours Belarus, Russia and Ukraine at the demand of the EU,
      which wants to ensure its eastern border is secure.

      Under an agreement between Poland and Russia signed on September 18,
      both sides will charge each other's citizens 10 euros (11.60 dollars)
      for a single entry, 16 euros for a double entry and 50 euros for a
      multiple entry visa.

      Students and pensioners will be able to get the visas for free.

      A similar arrangement applies to Belarus.

      In the case of Ukraine, Poles and Ukrainians will be be able to secure
      free visas to travel in their respective directions, as will inhabitants
      of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad, the only part of Russia that
      actually borders Poland.

      AFP.
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