Polish ministers are being accused of Islamophobia over their attempts to smear migrants crossing into the country with wild allegations of zoophilia and paedophilia.
Minister for the Interior Mariusz Kamiński and Minister of Defence Mariusz Błaszczak held a press conference where they claimed a tenth of the Middle Eastern migrants stuck at the border have been found to have possible connections with terrorism, organised crime and people smuggling.
Yet the most extraordinary moment of the press conference came when a picture was presented of a man having sex with a cow. The ministers said the picture, found on a migrant’s phone, is “evidence of zoophilia” against which Poland must be protected.
The ministers said the identities of several hundred illegal immigrants trying to enter Poland via Belarus have been verified. Two-thirds of them were selected for “deep verification” over alleged threats to the security of Poland.
A quarter of this group “may have dangerous connections or have participated in illegal practices,” they claimed.
“People with combat training and experience using weapons were discovered among the migrants. Twenty percent had ties, often over a period of many years, with the territory of the Russian Federation,” said Stanisław Żaryn, a Polish secret services spokesperson.
Photos alleged to have been found on migrants’ phones showed secret meetings of terror cells, dead bodies, executions by beheading, and images of machine guns.
Evidence of migrants’ supposed links with Russia were also presented, including public transport journeys, tickets to football matches and photos from tourist attractions. It was claimed one Afghan refugee had previously taken part in a Russian military training course.
Evidence was then shown suggesting some of the migrants had a history of forging documents for the purposes of illegal immigration.
The litany of alleged sins culminated with the incendiary claim that “examination of the identity of people staying in detention centres found evidence of paedophilic activity and zoophilia”.
Sexual images of children said to have been taken from the phones of Iraqi and Afghan migrants were presented.
A photo was then shown of a man having sex with a cow.
“The materials we are showing today testify to the challenge faced by Border Guard officers and soldiers of the Polish Army on the Polish Belarusian border,” said the Polish Defence Minister.
“These are the people storming the Polish border,” he claimed.
Opposition politicians and large sections of the Polish media have condemned the government’s press conference as “embarrassing” and an example of the basest kind of Islamophobia.
The jaw-dropping association of migrants stuck at the border with horrendous forms of criminal activity has plunged Poland even deeper into scandal over its treatment of people facing increasingly harsh conditions as colder weather approaches.
The deaths of four migrants at the Polish border were recently reported, while a large group of Afghans has been camped in no man’s land at the Polish border for weeks on end.
The Polish government claims migrants from the Middle East are being shepherded to the borders of the Schengen Zone by the Belarusian regime of Alexander Lukashenko as a tool of “hybrid warfare”.
But anger is growing at the lack of humanitarian aid for migrants from the Polish authorities.
And now, Poland’s PiS government appears to be weaponizing the migrants for its own ends, using harrowing images of crime and sexual perversion to suggest that they all constitute a threat to national security and Poland’s Christian culture.
Migrants have little chance to respond to the government’s latest accusations. A state of emergency at the Polish border is keeping journalists and NGO representatives away from those stranded, while people being kept in detention centres are unable to speak to the press.
The latest turn in government rhetoric has led to parallels with the demonisation of migrants perpetrated by the ruling PiS party during the last migrant crisis in 2015. Then, PiS party leader Jaroslaw Kaczyński claimed migrants risked infecting the Polish people with unknown diseases.
Nonetheless, opposition leader Donald Tusk has struggled to adopt a clear stance on the issue of migrants arriving at the border as he wishes to appear neither weak nor cruel.
"Donald Tusk takes a moderate stance when it comes to arguing for an open border and blaming the government, because he knows this could cost him politically as Polish society is generally anti-immigrant," Renata Mieńkowska, a political scientist from the University of Warsaw, told The Independent.