Poland abolishes visa fees for Belarusians

Starting on January 1, 2011, Belarusians will no longer be charged the ?20 fee for a Polish visa, Poland's Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday.

"The decision is an expression of solidarity with the people of Belarus in recognition for the strong signal of support for democracy movements which they sent out during the presidential election on 19 December 2010," read the statement on the Foreign Ministry's website.

According to Belarusian authorities, 10,000 people demonstrated against the reelection of Alexander Lukashenko, often described as Europe's last dictator.

An estimated 600 people were arrested as a result of the protests on December 19. Many were released on December 29, but several opposition candidates, as well as a number of campaigners and journalists, have been charged with organizing the protest and could face up to 15 years in prison.

In making its announcement, the Foreign Ministry also reserved the right to prevent the Belarusian officials behind the recent wave of repression from entering in Poland.

Polish consulates in Belarus issued 172,486 visas in 2010, according to the Foreign Ministry.

From Warsaw Business Journal by Alice Trudelle


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