President signs law tightening border control

Radek Pietruszka/PAP

Poland's president has signed a legal amendment enabling migrants caught illegally crossing the EU external border to be sent back, as well as entitling authorities to not consider claims for international protection.

On Thursday, president Andrzej Duda signed the amendment approved by parliament on October 14.

The new rules apply to foreigners caught immediately after illegally crossing the external EU border (with Russia, Belarus and Ukraine) and empowers the local Border Guard commander to decide to expel the migrant and ban him or her from entering Poland or the EU's passport-free Schengen area. The entry ban can be issued for a period of six months to three years.

The amendment also affects the law on granting international protection and entitles the head of the Office for Foreigners to decide not to consider an application for protection made by a migrant immediately after illegally crossing the border, unless the applicant "came directly from a territory in which his life or freedom was at risk of persecution or serious harm, and he presented reliable cause for illegally entering Poland."

The amendment's substantiation explained that the new rules do not oblige the head of the Office for Foreigners to take such a decision, but merely grants the option to do so.

The amendment also changes the law on border protection, introducing a prison term of six months to five years, or a fine, for destroying border infrastructure, specifically fencing, barriers and gates.