Last Updated: Friday, 09 December 2016, 15:34 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Poland

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 10 June 2002
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2002 - Poland , 10 June 2002, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3d04c15418.html [accessed 11 December 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

At the end of 2001, Poland hosted an estimated 1,800 refugees and asylum seekers, including almost 300 persons granted asylum during the year and an estimated 1,500 awaiting asylum decisions at year's end.

During the year, 4,506 persons filed asylum applications in Poland, about the same as in 2000. The largest number of asylum seekers in 2001 came from the Russian Federation (1,490), Armenia (635), Afghanistan (415), Moldova (272), Romania (266), Mongolia (240), and Vietnam (197).

Polish authorities granted refugee status to 291 persons during 2001, an approval rate of 9.2 percent, up from the 3 percent rate in 2000. Nationals of the Russian Federation, Belarus, Afghanistan, and Somalia accounted for most of the approvals. Poland denied the applications of 2,860 applicants, 713 of them as "manifestly unfounded." Some 2,300 asylum seekers appealed negative first-instance decisions to the Refugee Board during the year.

The government closed 1,820 of the 4,971 cases considered in 2001 because the applicants had abandoned their claims. The high number of abandoned applications in recent years indicates that many asylum seekers leave the country, presumably to seek asylum farther west.

New Legislation

Poland amended its 1997 Aliens Law during 2001, bringing the law's provisions for asylum seekers and refugees further in line with European Union (EU) standards. The new legislation came into force in July.

The amendments created a new independent government body, the Central Office for Repatriation and Aliens, which includes the Refugee and Asylum Procedures Department, to handle asylum claims. While removing strict filing deadlines for asylum applications, the new law is expected to speed up the decision-making process, which in previous years has been very slow.

The new law provides for both an expedited and regular procedure. Under the expedited procedure, applicants receive a response to their initial claim within two days. If denied, they can appeal to an independent body, the Refugee Board, which should issue a response within five days. The new legislation also creates a category for "manifestly unfounded" applications, which can be appealed with suspensive effect.

Asylum seekers whose applications are denied in the regular procedure may also appeal to the Refugee Board. Asylum seekers may appeal negative second-instance decisions to the High Administrative Court, which can rule on legal points, but not on the merits of a case. Under the new amendments, the final decision on granting or denying asylum should be made within six months.

The new law allows the government to grant temporary protection in situations of mass influx, and also permits residence to be granted on humanitarian grounds to those who do not qualify for refugee status, but who may face torture if returned to their countries of origin.

The new law newly defined the categories of "safe third countries" and "safe countries of origin," although the government does not maintain official lists of "safe" countries.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, asylum seekers who enter the country illegally can be subject to penalties. Poland's asylum legislation also continues to lack adequate procedures for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers.

During 2001, Poland concluded a readmission agreement with Ireland. The government also has readmission agreements with 18 other European countries.

Assistance and Integration

Asylum seekers usually reside in government-run reception centers during the normal asylum procedure. At year's end, 1,534 asylum seekers were receiving assistance at nine centers.

Recognized refugees have the right to work and receive social assistance on the same terms as Polish citizens, and can apply for permanent residence permits after three years. The new asylum law also contains provisions for family reunification that conform to EU standards. The Ministry of Labor's Department of Social Assistance is responsible for running integration programs for recognized refugees. However, funding for refugee integration is inadequate, and nongovernmental organizations must often assist refugees in meeting their basic needs.

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