Brian Kelly

Polish minister slams movie about migrants on Belarus border

Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0 Author: Tomasz Molina
"A safe border is one where no one dies!" People in Warsaw take part in a protest rally on October 17, 2021 in solidarity with migrants who have been pushed back at Poland's border with Belarus.

Poland’s right-wing justice minister Zbigniew Ziobro has derided the renowned Polish director Agnieszka Holland and denounced her Venice Film Festival entry, “Green Border”. He compared  the movie, which examines the plight of migrants on the borders of Belarus, to Nazi propaganda.

The movie deals with the refugee crisis that erupted two years ago along the Belarus border with Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.

Ziobro slammed the movie on X (formerly Twitter), writing: “In the Third Reich, the Germans produced propaganda films showing Poles as bandits and murderers. Today they have Agnieszka Holland for that.”

Festival organizers described the movie as depicting the lives of a Polish activist, a young Polish border guard and a Syrian family played out in this “green border” of swamps and forests.

Holland, who directed the 1990 Holocaust film “Europa, Europa”, has been a critic of the hard-line treatment of refugees and migrants by governments in Poland and elsewhere in Europe, a viewpoint reflected in the film.

At a news conference in Venice, she described the large-scale migration to Europe by people escaping conflict and poverty as an existential crisis, one that would worsen in the future due to climate change.

She noted that lessons learned from the Holocaust had “somehow evaporated and we have to deal today with the future which can be, I’m afraid, similar to the experience of the past.”

In 2021, Alexander Lukashenko, the Belarusian authoritarian leader, made it easier for migrants from the Middle East and Africa to access flights and visas to Belarus, as well as easing their way to the country’s borders with the EU. In some instances, Belarusian guards used force to push migrants across the border into EU countries.

Poland accused Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, of attempting to sow discord in the region. In the summer of 2021, migrants became stranded in the no-man’s land between Poland and Belarus, denied asylum access, humanitarian and medical help.

According to activists, dozens of migrants have died in the border zone.

Holland is among prominent public figures in Poland who have condemned authorities there for their treatment of the migrants. Critics maintain that despite Belarus being guilty of having used the migrants as pawns in a what they describe as a cynical geopolitical game, Poland, as a democracy and EU member, should have treated the migrants according to international law and allowed them apply for asylum.

The authorities in Poland claim the government’s critics and Polish activists harmed Polish interests by mobilizing to help the migrants.

Holland’s movie “Green Borders” is due for release in Poland on 22 September.

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