Last Updated: Wednesday, 20 August 2014, 14:37 GMT

Poland: Treatment of Roma; availability of state protection (2006 - February 2009)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Ottawa
Publication Date 18 February 2009
Citation / Document Symbol POL103089.E
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Poland: Treatment of Roma; availability of state protection (2006 - February 2009), 18 February 2009, POL103089.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4b20f0281e.html [accessed 20 August 2014]
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.

Various sources noted in 2007 and 2008 that the Roma continued to experience societal discrimination and incidents of racially motivated violence in Poland (US 11 Mar. 2008, Sec. 5; Freedom House 2008; COE 20 June 2007, Para. 72). The Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights notes that, in addition to being the occasional targets of violence, "[m]any Roma in Poland still suffer from exclusion and face difficult living conditions throughout the country" (ibid.). In particular, the European Network Against Racism (ENAR) states in a 2008 report that Roma in countries such as Poland often live in sub-standard housing that "lack[s] running cold water, electricity or gas and adequate sewerage, and [are] cut off from main roads which makes access to health services and schools very difficult" (25 Sept. 2008, 13-14). Additionally, the ENAR reports that "Roma on public transport are often treated as potential beggars" (ibid., 22). Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007 also notes that

[i]n some cases local officials discriminated against Roma by not providing adequate social services. Romani leaders complained of widespread discrimination in employment, housing, banking, the justice system, the media, and education. (US 11 Mar. 2008, Sec. 5)

According to a 2007 study published by the government of Poland's Ministry of Interior and Administration, Roma report an unemployment rate of 30.98 percent (Poland 2007, 14).

Government efforts and protective institutions

The 2004-2013 National Programme for the Roma Community is a multi-stakeholder government initiative, which involves the Ministry of Interior and Administration, the Ministry of National Education and Sport as well as local authorities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Roma associations, and which seeks to improve Roma social and living conditions (COE/ERICarts 2009, Sec. 4.2.1; EU Roma n.d.; COE 20 June 2007). In particular, the "aims of the national programme are to improve Roma living and health conditions, to reduce unemployment, to prevent racist crimes, to develop Roma culture and maintain their ethnic identity" (ibid., Para. 69; see also EU Roma n.d.). According to a COE / European Institute for Comparative Cultural Research (ERICarts) report, "[i]ts fundamental goal is to lead the Roma to full participation in public life and to address the divisions that exist between this group and the rest of society" (2009, Sec. 4.2.1). Information on the progress of the National Programme for the Roma Community could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, a 2007 Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) report provides the findings and recommendations on a field assessment of five Romani communities in the Malopolska Region [southern Poland] conducted by Polish authorities. In particular, the report notes that access to education, housing and employment continue to be a source of concern; reportedly almost 100 percent of Roma are unemployed and thus, socially excluded (ODIHR 2007).

Regarding protective institutions, while information specific to Roma could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate, the European Union (EU) Agency for Fundamental Rights notes that

complaints that relate to ethnic discrimination are received by Rzecznik Praw Obywatelskich (RPO) [The Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection (CCRP)], Panstwowa Inspekcja Pracy (PIP) [National Labour Inspectorate (NLI)], Departament ds. Kobiet, Rodziny i Przeciwdzialania Dyskryminacji w Ministerstwie Pracy i Polityki Spolecznej [Department of Women, Family and Counteracting Discrimination at the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy], and Zespól do spraw Monitorowania Rasizmu i Ksenofobii w Ministerstwie Spraw Wewnetrznych i Administracji [Monitoring Team on Racism and Xenophobia in the Ministry of Interior and Administration]. (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights 2008, 22)

The same source reports that the number of discrimination complaints made to these agencies is "very small," and concerns "isolated cases" (ibid.). However, the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights mentions that while Poland has set up institutions to address ethnic and racial discrimination, these organizations did not impose sanctions or awards in any cases of alleged racial and ethnic discrimination in 2006-2007 (ibid., 17). The report goes on to say that the absence of sanctions in 2006-2007 concerning this issue, illustrates "the absence of an effective equality body" (ibid., 17).

The Ministry of Interior and Administration's 2007 report on the protection of national minorities reports the following:

The complaints concerning discrimination due to race, nationality and ethnic origin are submitted to various institutions, including the Police, the prosecutor's offices, the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection and the Racism and Xenophobia Monitoring Team at the Ministry of Interior and Administration. Between 2002 and 2006 the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection initiated explanatory proceedings with regard to 57 cases, in which the complainants complained about the discrimination on racial, national or ethnic grounds, out of which the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection completed the explanatory proceedings in 46 cases concerning the issues referred to above. In 12 cases the solution was positive, in 6 cases the Commissioner refrained from further proceedings due to objective reasons and in 28 cases the charges were not confirmed. From among 57 initiated cases, 47 were analysed individually while in 10 cases the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection submitted general statements to the competent public administration authorities. It should be emphasized that the racism or discrimination issue was not the main reason for the complaint submitted to the Commissioner for Civil Rights Protection in all the abovementioned cases. Some of those cases concerned the criminal law, penal criminal law, activities of the Police and other law enforcement agencies, or the housing issues. (Poland 2007, 111)

Pertaining to racist criminal activity, Poland's official statistics show a "downward trend in recorded racist crime" from 2000 to 2006 (EU 2008, 33). Specifically, in 2000, there were 215 registered racist crimes, 103 in 2001, 94 in 2002, 111 in 2003, 113 in 2004, 172 in 2005, and 150 in 2006 (ibid.). Statistics on registered racist crime for 2007 and 2008 could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of sources consulted in researching this Information Request.

References

Council of Europe (COE). 20 June 2007. Commissioner for Human Rights. Memorandum to the Polish Government: Assessment of the Progress Made in Implementing the 2002 Recommendations of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. [Accessed 12 Feb. 2009]

Council of Europe (COE) / European Institute for Comparative Cultural Research (ERICarts). 2009. "Poland/ 4.2 Recent Policy Issues and Debates." Cultural Policies and Trends in Europe: a Compendium of Basic Facts and Trends. [Accessed 13 Feb. 2009]

European Network Against Racism (ENAR). 25 September 2008. Katalin Halasz. The Situation of Roma in Europe. ENAR Shadow Report 2007. (Decade of Roma Inclusion) [Accessed 13 Feb. 2009]

European Network on Social Inclusion and Roma under the Structural Funds (EU Roma). N.d. "Under the National and Ethnical Minorities and Regional Language Law from the 5th of January 2005 Poland Recognizes Several Minorities Living on its Territory." [Accessed 5 Feb. 2009]

European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. 2008. Annual Report. [Accessed 5 Feb. 2009]

Freedom House. 2008. "Poland." Freedom in the World. [Accessed 5 Feb. 2009]

Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR). 2007. "Field Assessment Report: The Situation of Bergitka Roma in the Malopolska Region of Poland." [Accessed 16 Feb. 2009]

Poland. 2007. Ministry of Interior and Administration. 2nd Report for the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on the Realisation by the Republic of Poland of the Provisions of the Framework Convention of the Council of Europe for the Protection of National Minorities. [Accessed 5 Feb. 2009]

United States (US). 11 March 2008. Department of State. "Poland." Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007. [Accessed 5 Feb. 2009]

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), The Economist, European Commission (EC), European Country of Origin Information Network (ecoi.net), European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC), Factiva, Focus Migration, Government of Poland – Ombudsman, Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights [Warsaw], Human Rights Watch (HRW), Minority Rights Group International, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Refworld, Open Society Institute (OSI), United States (US) Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at http://www.irb-cisr.gc.ca/en/. Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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