The European Radio for Belarus explores who controls the queue to the Polish Consulate in Minsk; why you need to pay Br10K ($5) in order to keep your spot and how much it is to turn two months of waiting into one day.

“What is your spot number?” a man wearing a sports jacket asked this reporter immediately when I lined up at the tail of around 200 people outside the Polish Consulate building. “If you have just come, you have to leave. People stand here for two months. Those who have just come need to go to that red car”.

The line was even bigger near the red VW Jetta. Someone ahead of me says he got tired coming to the consulate’s building and wait there for nothing. Only one hour after, I realized that this is the line for the right to stand in the visa queue...

... 3947? When am I going to get my visa?

“After one or two months”, the young VW Jetta owner calms me down. He entered my name and my reference number in the register book No3 on page 53 and gave me a paper slip with these numbers. He also warned that I had to come to his vehicle twice a week in order to confirm my queue spot. Otherwise, it would be cancelled.

It really resembles the early 1990s when you had to line up in front of a department store in order to buy a tape recorder! However, the guy in the Volkswagen says that I can leave Br10,000 and my spot will be automatically renewed. This is not a visa line. This is the line in order just to apply. Consulate staff can reject your visa application, despite your queue ordeal...

I asked him why keeping these records makes sense to him. The answer is simple: “If I need to, I can get access to the visa section”. I asked him again whether it was possible for me not to wait for two months. It is possible, but I have to buy some granny’s spot. She has never traveled to Poland and is not going to travel there. However, every day she has a new queue spot to the visa section doors...

I have no desire to either wait for months in order to get into the consulate building or to pay Br10,000 to this gangster or public activist, you name it. But something inside tells me that I will have to pay anyway.

Just imagine that everyone from my queue of almost 4000 people pays Br10,000 to this guy. Eventually, he will end up with almost $2000. At the same time, this “public activist” can file your documents anytime; the queue belongs to him.

An aging woman ahead of me says that she keeps coming to this vehicle for two months and expects to get an appointment at the consulate today or tomorrow. A student named Kanstantsin has spent JUST one month and a half in this queue.

Kanstantsin: “I can’t submit my papers. Too many people wish to get a visa. I have to stand in two lines. I am still far away from the victory...”

The queues were always there outside the Polish consulate office in Minsk. The explanation is that this mission covers four regions of this country. Those who come here often say that the number of people wishing to travel to Poland soared right after Poland said it was to join the Schengen agreement. The frenzy didn’t drop even the introduction of Eur60 visas was delayed for one month.

The Polish Embassy has no idea about 4000 Belarusians willing to get a visa. If they look out of the consulate’s window, they will see 200 people. Monica Sadkowska, Polish Embassy spokesperson told the European Radio for Belarus that the consulate issues visas within five days and that there are no lines.

Sadkowska: “This is a public queue, and we have nothing to do with it. It was created by those who stand there”.

She also said that the consulate issues 250-300 visas per day and that the Polish Embassy is not to introduce an on-line appointment registration system.

Sadkowska: “I know that some consulates in Minsk do it this way. No doubt, this is the question of the future”.

The Minsk Central District Police Department heard about the “alternative” queue for the first time from the European Radio for Belarus.

A duty police officer: “If you have an impression that this is an offense, you should approach the police officer on duty at the consulate. There is a standby security police officer who must take an action”.

It becomes clear now why Minskers tend to apply for Polish visas in Brest where there are no queues. Erzy Zimny, the head of the visa unit at the Polish Consulate in Brest, noted that everyone who comes to apply for visas succeeds without the help of “corrupted” members of the public.

The European Radio for Belarus will continue monitoring the sitiuation.