More than 300 Poles who came to Spain to watch the Polish team play in the World Cup soccer championship have defected and are seeking asylum in the West, members of the group said yesterday.
"This was our only chance," said Jacek, a 32-year-old interpreter from Katowice. "We have nothing to expect from life in Poland." Poles in the group who spoke to reporters asked that their last names not be used.
Six groups of 100 Poles were allowed to travel to Spain for the World Cup, the first Polish tourists visiting the West since the imposition of martial law last December.
Refugees interviewed in a downtown hotel said Polish officials thought they had eliminated the danger of defections by ensuring that none of the tourists brought their entire families with them.
"When I collected my passport, the police told me they believed I would come back, since I have children," said Barbara. "But my husband said I should not let them talk me into coming back."
Police and the Orbis state travel agency carefully screened applicants for the trip, she said. Most were allowed to bring only $60 each out of the country.
Barbara's group flew to Spain, while other groups came in Polish government buses.
"Many people in the buses defected in West Germany, France and Switzerland," Barbara said. "I think more than 60 percent of those who left stayed in the West."
Spanish authorities announced that 25 Poles had applied for political asylum.