In the past two years 650,000 Belarusians have received Schengen visas, and 40,000 informaticians from the country have been granted visas as part of the Poland Business Harbour relocation programme.
The information was shared by Franak Viačorka, an independent Belarusian journalist.
In addition to 40,000 IT professionals who were given Polish visas, the country also issued 35,000 humanitarian visas to other Belarusian citizens.
The exodus began in 2020, following the fraudulent presidential elections in Belarus and Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s hard crackdown on the resulting protests. It picked up pace following the Russian invasion of Ukraine earlier this year.
The resulting brain drain is crippling for the Belarusian IT sector, which was one of the few modern industries in the country. Many people have left to avoid living in a dictatorship, but Lukashenka’s close ties to the Kremlin and allowing Russian troops to use Belarus as a staging point for the invasion have resulted in sanctions applied to the country along with Russia. Numerous foreign companies were forced or made the decision to ditch their business connections to Belarus, leaving local professionals without work or forced to emigrate to work elsewhere, often with the assistance of western companies with whom they previously collaborated.
The interest in the Poland Business Harbour programme has rapidly increased following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The programme facilitates the relocation of star-ups and companies of various sizes as well as professionals to Poland.
President of the Board of Polish Investment and Trade Agency, Krzysztof Drynda, said that in the first year of the programme’s operation, 3,500 recommendations were given, but since the war started on February 24, this number skyrocketed to 22,000. 90 percent of these were issued to Belarusians.
The brain drain is also affecting Russia. Various estimates give the number of Russians who have emigrated from the country since the beginning of the war as being between 150,000 and 300,000, mostly young professionals.
Russian individuals and companies made up 5 percent of recommendations issued as part of the Poland Business Harbour programme. As Mr Drynda said, those people and companies are also trying to escape sanctions.