U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Poland
|Publisher||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants|
|Publication Date||20 June 2001|
|Cite as||United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Poland , 20 June 2001, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3b31e1680.html [accessed 20 July 2017]|
At the end of 2000, Poland hosted 2,266 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection. These included some 1,095 asylum seekers awaiting a decision by the Department of Migration and Refugee Affairs (DMRA) and 76 refugees granted status during the year.
During 2000, 4,519 persons filed asylum applications in Poland, a 58 percent increase from the 2,864 filed in 1999. The largest number of asylum seekers in 2000 came from the Russian Federation (1,089), Romania (903), Armenia (821), Bulgaria (340), Afghanistan (299), Mongolia (188), and Vietnam (161).
During 2000, Polish authorities granted refugee status to 76 persons, an approval rate of 3 percent, slightly higher than the two percent rate in 1999. Nationals of the Russian Federation, Georgia, and Somalia accounted for most of the approvals. Poland denied the applications of 2,626 applicants. The DMRA closed 1,206 of the 3,908 cases considered in 2000 because the applicants had abandoned their claims.
The Polish government contends that the high number of abandoned applications in recent years indicates that most asylum seekers only filed applications as a stop-gap measure to bide time in their attempts to reach points farther west. However, the low approval rate and delays in the refugee determination procedure, coupled with limited prospects for refugees to integrate into Polish society, have also caused some asylum seekers to abandon their claims and leave Poland.
Poland acceded to the UN Refugee Convention and Protocol in 1991. Poland's asylum procedure is based on its 1997 Aliens Law.
Asylum seekers normally must request asylum when crossing into Poland. Applicants who can demonstrate that threats to their health or security prevented them from applying at the border may lodge an application with the DMRA within 14 days of arrival. Individuals with sur place refugee claims also have two weeks to file after the event causing them to claim asylum. Asylum seekers entering the country illegally must apply for asylum immediately upon arrival. Filing for asylum, however, will not exempt the asylum seeker from penalties for illegal border crossing, including detention, a provision that conflicts with Article 31 of the UN Refugee Convention.
In December 1999, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reported that these filing requirements blocked some would-be asylum seekers from applying for asylum. Polish authorities reportedly denied the cases of other asylum seekers who did not meet the filing requirements but nevertheless managed to lodge an asylum application. However, the Polish Supreme Administrative Court issued a landmark decision in August 1999 stating that transgression of filing deadlines could no longer be a basis for rejecting an asylum claim.
Polish law contains provisions for asylum seekers arriving from "safe third countries" and "safe countries of origin" as well as a procedure for handling "manifestly unfounded" claims. By the end of 2000, however, the Polish government had yet to create lists of safe third countries and safe countries of origin, as the law mandates. Excepting those rejected on procedural grounds for failing to apply within established time limits, all other asylum applications were processed in 2000, and the authorities treated no cases as "manifestly unfounded."
The DMRA, responsible for making first-instance refugee status determinations, has three months to issue decisions on individual cases.
The Council for Refugees, an independent agency to decide appeals, became operational in March 1999. Asylum seekers may appeal negative second-instance decisions to the Supreme Administrative Court. This court, however, may rule on points of law only, and an appeal lodged with the court does not necessarily suspend deportation orders.
Asylum seekers usually reside in government-run refugee reception centers during the normal asylum procedure. At year's end, 7,569 asylum seekers were receiving assistance at centers. Asylum applicants may remain in the reception centers until the Council for Refugees issues a negative decision in the second instance. In 2000, most applicants awaiting appeals decisions from the Supreme Administrative Court relied on government support for accommodations and assistance. UNHCR provided assistance in exceptional cases when asylum seekers waited for appeal decisions at the Supreme Court.
Recognized refugees have the right to work, receive social assistance on the same terms as Polish citizens, and can apply for permanent residence permits after three years. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) indicate that refugees often experience difficulty in meeting the requirements for a permanent residence permit, such as steady employment and secure accommodations. Recognized refugees are eligible for citizenship after five years of permanent residence.
The Ministry of Labor's Department of Social Assistance (DSA) is responsible for running integration programs for recognized refugees. According to UNHCR, the DSA issued an integration ordinance in December after a long delay, but had yet to implement it or to distribute assistance funds to refugees at year's end.
In 2000, Poland continued to participate in the PHARE Horizontal Program for Justice and Home Affairs. The project aims to bring Baltic and Central European countries' legislation and institutions in line with European Union (EU) standards and practices. In 2000, remaining "gaps" in Polish asylum law included the lack of a humanitarian status for asylum seekers who do not meet Convention criteria but who nonetheless are in need of international protection, the right to family reunification, and the introduction of an accelerated procedure. The government committed itself to rectifying these discrepancies by mid-2001, when it intends to pass several amendments to the Aliens Act.
As in much of Eastern Europe, the Roma in Poland face discrimination in housing and employment. In 2000, human rights groups reported "skinhead" attacks on the Roma. Several hundred Polish Roma sought asylum abroad in 2000. Few Western European governments grant Roma asylum, contending they are economic migrants, not refugees.
Poland as a "Safe" Third Country
UNHCR has reported that asylum seekers returned to Poland on the basis of readmission agreements are able to apply for asylum provided they make their requests at the border. However, Polish border guards may detain undocumented foreigners, including asylum seekers, although filing for asylum will suspend their deportation.
Poland has readmission agreements with 18 European countries.