Poland gathers data on foreigners in the country

WARSAW, Poland (AP) - Poland's deputy defense minister on Monday cited security concerns in Europe as he tried to justify a move to gather data on foreign visitors and residents.

A mostly homogenous and Catholic nation, Poland's government is refusing to accept migrants from the Middle East and Africa over safety reasons. The stance has drawn condemnation from European Union leaders, who have given Warsaw a June deadline to accept asylum-seekers, or face sanctions. The nationalist government of Prime Minister Beata Szydlo has indicated it would prefer sanctions to accepting migrants.

The Defense Ministry has requested information from authorities in northwestern province of Szczecin, which has close links with neighboring Germany, about foreigners in their region, in particular foreign nationals who have Polish passports or permission to reside in Poland. The ministry made the request under "crisis management" regulations.

The request has drawn vehement criticism from the political opposition, which says such an approach is harmful because it equates foreigners with threats.

Slawomir Nitras of the pro-EU Civic Platform stressed that around 500,000 people in this country of 38 million declare to be of foreign nationality. Among the minorities are German, Belarussian, Lithuanian and Roma ethnic groups.

Deputy Defense Minister Michal Dworczyk argued that it is a "natural thing, taking into consideration the situation in the European Union today, that the state should have information on foreign nationals on Poland's territory" as it ensures security to the citizens.

He argued that attacks in recent years were carried out by people who "either came (to Europe) as illegal migrants, or by members of new generation (of migrants) living in Europe."

Poles have been among the victims of attacks carried out in Western Europe, most recently in the Manchester suicide bombing.