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WYD: over a million arriving from Poland. Schengen against Krakow?

More than half a million young people from 158 countries have already registered for the WYD in Cracow (July 25 to 31), and over a million are expected to register soon. However, with the numbers are also rising the concerns. In fact, migratory pressure at the border, raises doubts on the Schengen’s Treaty for the free movement of persons. This situation could have serious repercussions on the issuance of entry visas to Poland for youth from non-Schengen countries who will be even requested their fingerprints

Over half a million have registered for the World Youth Day in Krakow (July 25-31 2016). “In particular,

more than 560 thousand young people from 158 countries have sent their adhesion to date.

These figures are bound to increase in the coming months”, underlined Fr Grzegorz Suchodolski, Director of the WYD National Office Day in the Polish city, who does not deny some concern over the current developments in Europe. Migratory border pressure is challenging the Schengen Treaty for the free movement of persons, ratified by 26 member countries. Austria, Germany, Sweden, Norway, France, Denmark have reinstated border controls to those who want to enter their territory, while the European Commission is considering the next steps after a large majority of EU member states asked for a two-year extension of internal border controls within the Schengen area. Poland’s Interior Ministry Mariusz Blaszczak made known that his Country will veto any new EU plan envisaging mandatory acceptance of migrant quotas by Member countries.

Fingerprints for entry visas. If this situation should persist it would impact also those –many- young people who intend to take part in the WYD whose Countries of departure are outside the Schengen area and who therefore will need an entry visa for Poland. To date those registered significantly exceeded half a million, from 158 countries. As many as 120 thousand young people are expected from Italy. The local organizing committee (Col) of the WYD and the Polish Foreign Ministry are “actively working on the issuance of visas” to avoid any problem, as confirmed by Fr. Suchodolski. “Our government – the priest said – has decided that visas will be issued free of charge. Thus there will be no need to pay the 60-euro fee. The visas will cover the entire Schengen area, not only Poland.” Moreover, little can be done to overcome the constraints linked to a regulation “enforced in Schenghen area Countries”, which stipulates, as pointed out by the director, that

“the applicant making such a request for a visa for the first time must appear in person to embassies and consulates in Poland where biometric identifiers will be detected: a photograph and ten fingerprints. ”

Poland has provided for the deployment of officials with ad hoc machinery in place to detect the biometric data of applicants for those countries with no Polish diplomatic representation. As an alternative, young people can make a similar request to consulates and embassies of Schengen area Countries present in their home countries. According to sources of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs waiting time amounts to two weeks. The same regulation, added the director of the national WYD Office “envisages the presentation of visa requests not until three months prior to the date of arrival. Thus those who wish to travel to Poland in July to attend the WYD can ask for a visa as of the month of April. There ensues that many young people will be informed on whether they were granted a visa only shortly before the beginning of the event. In order to promote visa issuance, in our capacities as WYD organizing Committee, we drew up a recommendation letter that will be automatically generated upon application for the Day by the registration system. The letter is an invitation by the WYD Committee in Krakow which will thereby guarantee registered youths board, lodging and health assistance up to 30 thousand euro as provided for by current legislation. The letter will need to be presented to the competent authorities along with the visa request form.”

Young people’s visit to Auschwitz. The commitment of Krakow’s Organizing Committee is not limited to the visa issue. In fact, as registrations for the Day increase, WYD participants’ requests to visit the Nazi concentration and extermination camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau follow the same pace. It is expected that over 560thousand young people will visit the concentration camps during the WYD events. The Nazi camp, located in the area of the diocese of Bielsko, bordering with the district of Krakow, is one of the destinations proposed to youths by the Organizing Committee of WYD Poland as a site to be visited especially aimed at reflecting on how such horrors could have taken place. “The Organizing Committee and the management of the museum of Auschwitz-Birkenau – said Fr Suchodolski – have provided that the camp remain open from July 18 to August 3 for groups of youths registered for the WYD. The museum management had originally envisaged 11 thousand visitors during the 11 opening hours of the camp.

In order to meet the high numbers of requests, the museum has decided to extend to 3000 the number of visitors per hour, amounting to 33 thousand visitors a day.”

The Organizing Committee plans to set up a prayer tent near the camp, animated by the Taizé community.
Registration for the visit, that will take place led by a guide, is possible by simply filling in the form at the following link: http://mlodzi.duszpasterstwa.bielsko.pl/auschwitz/. Amidst growing anticipation there is a persistent rumour that Pope Francis will visit the concentration camp during the WYD, as well as the Marian Shrine of Jasna Góra in Częstochowa.

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