Polish foreign ministry sacks legal chief as visa scandal grows

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WARSAW – Poland’s foreign ministry said on Friday it had fired the head of its legal service and cancelled all its contracts for outsourcing visa applications amid a growing scandal over migration a month ahead of elections.

The announcement came a day after seven people were charged over alleged irregularities in granting work visas and two weeks after anti-corruption officers looking into the scandal searched the ministry.

Opposition groups have accused the government of being complicit in a system in which migrants received visas at an accelerated pace without proper checks after paying intermediaries.

Polish media, citing sources in the ministry and the ruling party, have said the scandal surfaced after other EU states alerted Warsaw to an unusually high number of migrants entering with Polish visas – which under the EU’s Schengen open border regime give the holder the right to work throughout the bloc.

The ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party, which is campaigning for the Oct. 15 vote on a tough stance on immigration, has accused the opposition of exaggerating the extent of the issue and suggested some of the problems date back to the opposition’s time in power.

On Friday, the foreign ministry said its legal office and all Polish consulates abroad would be audited, and legal department head Jakub Osajda would be fired.

Osajda had also worked as aide to Deputy Foreign Minister Piotr Wawrzyk who was fired on Aug. 31 – the same day as the ministry was searched – with the ministry citing “a lack of satisfactory cooperation”.

Wawrzyk, who has not made any public statements over the scandal, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Friday. Reuters could not reach Osajda for comment.

The ministry also said Poland had started outsourcing the issuing of work visas after 2011 when the then foreign minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, from the opposition Civic Coalition group, had decided to close 31 diplomatic posts.

Civic Coalition leader Donald Tusk said on Thursday it was Poland’s biggest scandal of this century.

The ruling party has said it is looking into irregularities, waiting for the results of an investigation and has accused the Civic Coalition of seeking to open borders to migrants. REUTERS

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