Polish official slams film exploring migrant crisis on Poland-Belarus border

A leading figure in Poland's conservative government has slammed a film exploring the humanitarian disaster befalling migrants along the Polish-Belarusian border that premiered Tuesday at the Venice Film Festival.

“Green Border”, by Polish director Agnieszka Holland, focuses on the refugee crisis that emerged two years ago on Belarus' border with the European Union states Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. The film is in competition at the festival.

Poland's hard-line justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, criticized the film, comparing it to Nazi propaganda.

“In the Third Reich, the Germans produced propaganda films that showed Poles as robbers and murderers. Today they have Agnieszka Holland for it,” Ziobro wrote Monday on X, the social platform formerly known as Twitter.

According to the film festival's description, the feature film dramatizes the tragedy that took place on this “green border” of swamps and forests in a story that shows the intertwined lives of a Polish activist, a young Polish border guard and a Syrian family.

Holland directed the 1990 Holocaust film Europa, Europa. He has been critical of the harsh treatment of refugees and migrants by governments in Poland and elsewhere in Europe, a view reflected in the film.

At a press conference in Venice, he described large-scale migration to Europe by people fleeing conflict and poverty as an existential crisis for the continent, saying the issue would worsen in the future due to climate change. Holland said Europeans would have to decide whether to face the challenge humanely or not, appearing pessimistic.

He said the lessons of the Holocaust “have kind of evaporated and we have to face today the future which may, I fear, be similar to the experience of the past,” he said.

In 2021, Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko eased access to flights and visas for migrants from the Middle East and Africa to Belarus, easing their way to the border. Belarusian guards in some cases used force to push them across the border into EU countries.

Poland has accused Lukashenko, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, of seeking to sow discord in the region. In many cases, Polish border guards pushed the migrants back to Belarus and refused to allow them to apply for asylum. In the summer of 2021, migrants were stranded in the no-man's land between Poland and Belarus, where they were denied humanitarian and medical aid.

Activists have reported dozens of deaths in the border zone.

“I understood that a cruelty training camp had been set up on the border. In my opinion, it was a purely political decision,” Holland said in a recent interview with Poland's Newsweek, in which she accused populist politicians in Poland and elsewhere of seeking to score political points with what she described as a short-sighted and inhumane approach. immigration.

Holland was among prominent public figures in Poland who have condemned Polish authorities for their treatment of migrants. Critics argue that although Belarus was guilty of using the migrants as pawns in a cynical geopolitical game, a republic and EU member like Poland should have treated them in accordance with international law by allowing them to apply for asylum.

Polish authorities accused her critics and Polish activists who mobilized to help the migrants of harming Poland's interests.

The film is released in Poland on September 22.