A residence permit scandal, which goes all the way up to the government levelsset fire to the election campaign for the October parliamentary elections in Polandwith the opposition accusing the government – ​​which has adopted a harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric – of bringing “hundreds of thousands of migrants” from Africa and the Middle East into the country.

According to media reports, the Foreign Ministry is at the center of this influence-peddling scandal, which has been called “the biggest scandal of the 21st century in Poland” by the leader of the main opposition party, Donald Tusk.

At the end of August, a deputy minister, Piotr Vavrczyk, was removed from the government, officially for “insufficient cooperation”. Today, private radio station RMF FM reported that Vavrczyk was taken to a hospital on Thursday after attempting to kill himself with a knife. The Onet.pl news website, citing unnamed sources within the ruling party, said the deputy minister was being prosecuted for “helping to organize a ring of illegal immigration from Asia and Africa”, through consulates and companies that were compensated for this people-trafficking. .

Media sources say the deputy minister and his associates sent consulates lists of hundreds of names of people who should be granted visas quickly, often without following verification procedures.

Onet.pl specifically reported cases of Indians who appeared as Bollywood stars and, with the intervention of this deputy minister, received visas to enter the Schengen area. These permits allow their holder to enter and exit the Schengen area as many times as they wish, as long as they are valid. The website also says Polish authorities were tipped off about the case by other countries’ intelligence services, which the government has denied.

The undersecretary reportedly authored an executive order that would pave the way for at least 400,000 visas to be granted to people from Asian and African countries. When the case was revealed by the opposition, this plan was rejected.

Poland’s ruling nationalist populist party tried to downplay the issue. Officials told him the case only involved “a few hundred visas”. Prosecutors, who are investigating this “unfair exercise of influence”, said seven people have been arrested, but none of them are government officials.

Earlier today the Foreign Office admitted that “irregularities were observed in the visa process” and announced that the head of its legal service had resigned.

This case is particularly damaging for the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party, which has been promoting its anti-immigrant rhetoric for years. Last year Poland completed the construction of a steel fence along the border with Belarus, aimed at preventing migrants from entering. Thousands of soldiers were deployed to protect this wall. Warsaw has accused Minsk and Moscow of orchestrating this migrant “invasion” in a “hybrid attack” aimed at destabilizing the wider region, which Belarus and Russia deny.

On October 15, at the same time as the elections, a referendum on immigration will be held in Poland. Poles are being asked to state whether they want the “wall on the border with Belarus to be removed” and whether they are in favor of “thousands of illegal immigrants” entering their country under the EU’s relocation mechanism.

After the scandal was revealed, the opposition did not mince its words and spoke of a “visa mafia”. In a video posted online, the liberal Political Platform accuses the government of bringing “250,000 immigrants from the Middle East and Africa” ​​into the country, adding: “The referendum is a fraud.”

“First they called them (immigrants) a threat, then they decided to take advantage, shamelessly breaking the law,” Agata Dydusko-Zyglewska of the New Left wrote on Platform X.