Right now, the Polish state is building the largest barrier ever seen in Europe. The wall is to be built over 180 km along the border with Belarus. The planned height of it is 5.5 meters, of which 5 meters will be steel poles topped with a half-meter coil of razor wire. It will be equipped with an electronic detection system to monitor for any crossing attempts.
Aside from obvious humanitarian issues, the completion of this project will additionally cause unimaginable environmental and animal rights disaster.
The decision to build a wall on the border is a consequence of earlier actions of the government. It fits perfectly into the ruling far-right Law and Justice Party’s (PiS) ideology and its use of simple, emotional symbols and the nationalist myth of defending the fatherland. In this case the wall, while real, is a concrete symbol, easily understood by a society used to the idea of a besieged fortress. The utility of this symbol is not important. In fact, many independent experts are very critical of this project, pointing out that it will not be fit for purpose.
However, the wall is a huge investment that will, on the one hand, divert attention from other problems and enable the government to create the impression that it is active, and on the other hand, it is an opportunity for companies and people associated with power to make a lot of money. The estimated cost of building the wall is nearly PLN 2 billion (approx £367 million).
The decision to build the wall was passed by the Polish parliament (Sejm) via special governmental decree and did not follow the proper legal route of parliamentary decision making. As a result, it is exempt from construction, environmental and many other state regulations. No permits are required and no public consultations are planned. On the other hand, the decree allows the use of compulsory purchase to seize private land for construction. As a result, it is in fact outside the law and all information about it is secret.
The list of organisations involved in the project [published below-Ed] is a mix of political and economic interests, showing the intertwining of power and business. Marek Chodkiewicz, former undersecretary of state in the Ministry of Infrastructure in the PiS government, was appointed the plenipotentiary for the preparation of the wall. The president of Mostostal Siedlce, the main producer of steel elements for the wall, is Tomasz Hapunowicz, associated with PiS. Mostostal vice-president Mariusz Gruda financed the PiS campaign in the local elections. The president of another materials supplier, Węglokoks, is Sławomir Brzeziński, a former PiS councillor.
Migrant support organisations and groups have been opposed to the wall construction from the start, drawing attention to the great social harm of such an project. In its very symbolic layer, the wall separating us from people in need of help is an expression of nationalist politics and a very illustrative example of the strengthening of Fortress Europe. The blatant lack of responsibility for imperial politics and the lack of solidarity with those who suffer its consequences is a common practice for countries of the so-called Global North. The physical wall at the border further strengthens the narrative of the besieged fortress and dehumanises the people on the other side.
The efficacy of this solution is contested by many experts. They draw attention to the fact that the border wall will not fulfil its basic function, which is to stop people from crossing the border. However, it will make a significant contribution to the development and strengthening of smuggling and trafficking groups. The effect will not be to limit the number of people crossing the border, but to push more and more of them into the hands of criminal groups.
The wall is therefore a total contradiction of a rational migration policy. It will make border crossing even more dangerous and put the health and life of the people attempting it at risk. On an individual scale, this means more tragedies of families who have decided to travel to Europe, more dead, wounded and missing people. On a global scale, it will perpetuate the phenomenon of criminalising migration even more.
The European Union itself is not very willing to openly support the project, because the symbolism of the wall shows it in a bad light and is completely opposite to EU’s supposed openness. Therefore, the EU does not officially participate in the construction costs of the wall, although of course it is tacitly in favour. Even so, the European Commission has decided to grant Poland, Lithuania and Latvia an additional EUR 200 million, which could be used to purchase monitoring equipment and vehicles for the Border Guards. The Polish army, in an operation on the border with Belarus, was also supported by troops from other EU countries, including from the Czech Republic, Hungary and Estonia. Since December, 140 British Army engineers have been engaged in the construction project. And an additional 350 soldiers from the 45th Royal Marine Commando arrived in Poland in February due to the Ukraine crisis.
Two companies will be responsible for the construction itself – Budimex S.A., the majority shareholder of which is Spanish company Ferrovial, and Unibep. Budimex is responsible for approximately 100 km of the investment section that will run through the very centre of Białowieża Forest, one of the oldest and most valuable forests in Europe. The decision to interfere with the forest’s ecosystem met with great opposition from environmental organisations and activists. In a sign of the increasing convergence of crises this act of human cruelty will also cause environmental devastation.
The Białowieża primeval forest is located across Poland and Belarus. It has survived intact to this day as it is mainly a wetland area, and lacks larger rivers to float timber. The wall in its centre will cause irreparable damage, crossing animal migration routes, preventing many species from reproducing and obtaining food. This will seriously disturb the balance of this precious ecosystem. The construction also involves cutting a 200-meter strip along the border, also in a strictly protected reserve. The passage of heavy equipment needed to for such development will cause additional damage to flora and fauna. There will also be storage yards of materials located in valuable natural areas – storage of aggregate, sand and 50,000 tons of steel.
The construction works officially started on January 25, 2022 although the necessary materials began to be delivered to the border area much earlier. Authorities, aware of the public outcry, increased the number of troops guarding the construction site, and since its inception, inspections have been increased and the no-stay zone has been sealed.
The inhabitants of neighbouring villages indignantly watched the passage of heavy machines crossing the forest roads. They also tried to talk to Budimex representatives several times – to no avail. People living in the zone and activists organised protests at the Budimex headquarters in Warsaw and Hajnówka, as well as demonstrations against the construction in many cities in Poland, incl. in Poznań, Wrocław and Toruń.
More than 1,700 scientists from all over the world appealed to the European Commission, pointing out that the construction would collide with nature-protected areas, including areas protected by Natura 2000, and that the corridor being cut is one of the most important corridors for the preservation of forest and wetland habitats in Central Europe. It is the main axis of the Northern Corridor, which connects the Białowieża Primeval Forest and the forest habitats of Belarus and Ukraine with the forest complexes of Poland and, subsequently, of Western Europe, being the main axis of movement of large mammals on a continental scale.
Paradoxically, the companies that carry out this devastation declare they care for the natural environment and the local population. Ferrovial, the main shareholder in Budimex, wrote on its website “In 2020, we introduced a new strategy that marked a turning point in the strategic direction of the company, a change of course towards transforming Ferrovial into a more agile, profitable and better positioned organisation to face global challenges such as climate change and congestion, and pioneering smarter and sustainable mobility that can offer solutions to society.” Similar declarations are also made at every step by other shareholders – Nationale Nederlanden or Santander Aviva.
Hence, among other ideas, the activists and anti-wall groups want to identify those responsible. Our No Borders Team is calling on individuals and groups from all over Europe to boycott them and to organise demonstrations outside their premises [Below, Freedom publishes the call-out for international action-ed]. Although construction has already started, activists still hope to limit it as much as possible. The only chance to achieve this is to coordinate actions opposing this investment in many countries, which will make it possible to put more effective pressure on the authorities of Poland and the Union.
No Borders Team Poland
CALL FOR INTERNATIONAL ACTION
We call on individuals and groups from all over Europe and the world to take action against the construction of the wall on the Polish-Belarusian border. Any form of protest is welcome; we leave it to you how you want to join this campaign. We want to put pressure on the European institutions and local
governments and make the public aware of the scale of violence against people on the move.
Against all walls!
Please let us know about your actions: no_borders_team(at)riseup.net
While the idea of building a wall as a remedy to the problems posed by so-called “migration crisis” seems absurd at its most basic level, it is still the leading solution promoted by state authorities.
The authorities that have long since surrendered their protective function and are only an administrative back-up for capitalist services now pretend to serve as our protectors. The indoctrination that brings us to the level of the “consumption machine” to which we are subjected daily not only leaves us no space for independent thinking or action but also seizes and colonizes new aspects of our lives. The alleged rationality with which the wall-building project is presented appears from our perspective as an element of authoritarian propaganda and geopolitical gameplay. Within its framework the capital, to seize new resources, destabilizes the situation in selected regions of the
world through economic speculation, military interventions and arms trade, and then escapes the responsibility for the consequences of these actions by blocking the migration resulting from them.
This situation is to blame not only on specific persons or decisions, but also on the global capitalist structure in which this process occurs. Therefore, by opposing the wall’s construction, we also deny the legitimacy of the existence of state borders in general. The freedom to move around our planet is an inalienable right of everyone, and we will fight for this freedom with all available means. A wall is a real obstacle for people on the move and can affect their life or health. It is also a symbolic representation of capitalist ideas of control and domination. In the wall’s Polish edition, we can hear an echo of the nationalist and racist rhetoric, the imaginary of which is based on the myth of the white and red Hussars defending Christian Europe against the hosts of barbarian hordes from the east. Playing on these moods, the unjustified militarization of the border zone takes place, the access of journalists, medics, activists are blocked, and the mood is tensed, with the prospect of future elections in the background.
State experts do not even question the poor effectiveness with which the walls inhibit mass migration processes globally. Instead, these structures produce and strengthen smuggling nets, at the same time
criminalizing migration itself. The authorities seem to care especially about this aspect. Managing the population, the physical set of bodies, their movement and work have always been an instrument of control. Generating a sense of threat by “others”, false concern for one’s own while limiting their freedoms are the elements strengthening and justifying the need for control’s existence. The arbitrarily established boundaries of nation-states as a territorial delimitation of the field of oppression and exploitation are in themselves an act of violence, which protects privileged groups’ interests.
In the context of building a wall on the Polish-Belarusian border, the economic aspect is not without significance. It is related to the reckless spending of public funds, bypassing all applicable procedures. The international corporations involved in the construction and their shareholders are already rubbing their hands at the thought of future profits. Once again, it turns out that the state represents only the
interests of the richest. The implementation will probably fall to local companies, often cheated by contracts and agreements predetermined by the main contractor to impose contractual penalties.
An equally important aspect is the ecological dimension. The wall runs through the middle of the forest in the Białowieża National Park. Despite the opposition of local residents, this unique nature reserve is to become a site of construction works carried out 24/7. The arrogance with which the authorities push through such decisions seems systemic. The fate of people, animals and nature is not important to them. What counts is the political and financial capital built using the crisis situation.
Regardless of whether they are centres of concentration of migrants fenced with barbed wire or walls filled with electronics along the state borders, the logic of these actions – fencing, separating, but also
closing, imprisonment – is based on a repressive mechanism of protection created by the plunder and exploitation of accumulated capital. The struggle against frontiers cannot be abstracted from the rest of the structural and interconnected instruments of capitalist repression such as class, racial and gender divisions or the patriarchal hierarchy. By drawing the boundaries within us, strengthening conflicts and antagonisms, the capital plays and manages our lives within the framework of its identity policy. Discrimination against the “Other” is also discrimination against what is different within ourselves.
The case of the wall, like a lens, focuses on the trouble spots of contemporary capitalist pseudo-politics. Psychopathic need to control and manage “human biomass”; mindless ignorance of the suffering of others; disguised racist prejudices and fascist authoritarianism; the economic pathology of corruption and profit at all costs with the simultaneous instrumental treatment of nature and its resources.
That is why we call on all interested parties in Poland and the world to resist the building of the wall and what it represents; against authorities, contractors, shareholders and investors. We call for solidarity with migrants and harmed nature and objection to mindlessly wasted taxpayers’ money. Any form of resistance is better than passive complicity; we encourage small, autonomous and more widely coordinated actions to contain construction. We leave open the form that these activities will take: demonstrations, pickets, murals, blockades, banners; in defending the values in which we believe, let us not limit ourselves.
While construction has already started, we believe that we will stop this catastrophe if we act together. Despite forcing us to meaningless work and equally mindless consumption, we will not let ourselves be persuaded what form of life is worth living. It is up to us to decide about it, and it is our commitment, not empty regulations, to create a new, egalitarian order. The value we provide mutual assistance is not
countable into numbers on the accounts. Our attitude, selfless work and the heart we put into it will become the foundation of another wall, a wall of cooperation and mutual understanding running across state borders and identity narratives; the wall of our bodies inextricably woven into the natural ecosystem joined together in the weave of a community that becomes a new reality.
No Borders Team Poland
Main contractors responsible for the wall development:
- Budimex SA
ul. Siedmiogrodzka 9
tel.: 22 623 60 00
Ferrovial Construction International SE (50.15% stake)
C/Principe de Vergara, 135. CP 28002
tel: +34 91 586 25 00
C/Ribera del Loira, 42. Parque
Empresarial Puerta de las Naciones, CP
28042, Madrid (Spain)
tel: +34 91 300 85 00
Ferrovial Construction UK & Ireland
3 Floor, Building, 5 566 Chiswick Park, Chiswick, London W4 5YS
Aviva OFE Aviva Santander (8.51% stake)
Nationale Nederlanden OFE (9.21% stake)
Other shareholders 28.33%
OFE PZU Złota Jesień (3.79%)
OFE Aegon (3.53%)
OFE MetLife (3.00%)
OFE UNIQA (3.00%)
OFE Allianz Polska (2.02%)
OFE Generali (0.63%)
OFE PKO BP Bankowy (1.24%)
Norges Bank (Government of Norway) (0.22%)
TFI Aviva Investors Poland S.A. (1.05%)
TFI NN Investment Partners S.A. (0.71%)
OFE Pocztylion Arka (0.43%)
TFI PKO S.A. (0.41%)
TFI PZU S.A. (0.34%)
TFI Skarbiec S.A. (0.34%)
TFI Santander S.A. (0.22%)
TFI Generali Investment S.A. (0.18%)
TFI Uniqa S.A. (0.18%)
TFI Allianz Polska S.A. (0.15%)
TFI Pekao S.A. (0.15%)
TFI Millennium S.A. (0.07%)
TFI Investors S.A. (0.07%)
TFI Ipopema S.A. (0.06 %)
TFI MetLife S.A. (0.05 %)
TFI Esaliens S.A. (d. Legg Mason) (0.02%)
TFI Rockbridge S.A. (0.02%)
Artur Popko (0.02%)
DFE PKO (0.02%)
TFI BNP Paribas S.A. (0.02%)
DFE Nationale-Nederlanden (0.01%)
TFI AgioFunds S.A. (0.01%)
TFI Opera S.A. (0.01%)
- UNIBEP S.A.
Ul. 3 Maja 19
17-100 Bielsk Podlaski
(48 85)731 80 00-03
(48 85) 730 68 68
Zofia Mikołuszko 25.09 %
Beata Maria Skowrońska 15.68 %
OFE Aviva Santander 9.75 %
OFE PKO BP Bankowy 8.66 %
Wojciech Jacek Stajkowski 7.13 %
Bożenna Anna Lachocka 7.13 %
in total 73.44 %
Unibep S.A. 9.98 %
TFI PKO S.A. 4.03 %
OFE Aegon 2.10 %
Leszek Marek Gołąbiecki 1.97 %
OFE Nationale-Nederlanden 1.51 %
TFI Aviva Investors Poland S.A. 1.12 %
OFE Allianz Polska 0.95 %
TFI Uniqa S.A. 0.71 %
TFI Opera S.A. 0.37 %
TFI Generali Investment S.A. 0.34 %
OFE Pocztylion Arka 0.28 %
TFI Pekao S.A. 0.24 %
TFI BNP Paribas S.A. 0.18 %
TFI Esaliens S.A. (d. Legg Mason) 0.14 %
DFE PKO 0.13 %
TFI Alior S.A. 0.06 %
Jan Mikołuszko 0.06 %
- Major materials suppliers
al. Jana Pawła II 12
+48 22 829 71 00
+48 22 829 74 00
Tel. 32 258 24 31
Tel. 32 251 54 53
Featured photo: Soja Photography.