Last Updated: Wednesday, 27 July 2016, 13:47 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Poland

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 1 June 2003
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2003 - Poland , 1 June 2003, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3eddc49a0.html [accessed 27 July 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 2002, Poland hosted an estimated 280 refugees and asylum seekers in need of protection.

During the year, nearly 5,200 persons filed asylum applications in Poland, 14 percent more than in 2001. The largest numbers of asylum seekers came from the Russian Federation (3,000), Afghanistan (600), Armenia (220), and India (200). Polish authorities granted asylum to 250 persons during 2002, an approval rate of 5 percent, down from 9 percent in 2001. Nationals of the Russian Federation (mostly Chechens) accounted for most of the approvals. Poland denied the applications of around 4,700 applicants, deeming 710 of them manifestly unfounded. Some 39 asylum seekers appealed denials to the Refugee Board during the year, of whom 6 were granted asylum.

The government closed 490 of the 5,480 cases considered in 2002 because the applicants had abandoned their claims, far less than the 1,820 cases closed in 2001.

In early November, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) intervened with the Polish government on behalf of more than 150 Chechen asylum seekers who claimed they had been denied entry into Poland by Polish border authorities during the Chechen hostage-taking incident in Moscow .

Asylum Procedure

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

The 2001 amendments created a new independent government body, the Central Office for Repatriation and Aliens, which includes a Refugee and Asylum Procedures Department, to handle asylum claims. While removing strict filing deadlines for asylum applications, the new law was expected to speed up the decision-making process, which in previous years has been very slow. In 2002, the average time for initial decisions was about eight months for applicants living independently and ten months for those housed in reception centers.

Under the 2001 law, Poland introduced an expedited procedure for cases deemed manifestly unfounded. Under the law, the cases of applicants who originate from or travel through countries deemed safe are considered manifestly unfounded, but the government does not maintain official lists of such countries. Applications that are made to avoid deportation, contain "unreliable or untrue" information, or have no grounds under the Refugee Convention are also deemed manifestly unfounded. Under the expedited procedure, applicants should 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. Appeals have the effect of suspending deportation.

Asylum seekers whose applications are denied in the regular procedure may also appeal to the Refugee Board. Asylum seekers may further appeal to the High Administrative Court, which can rule on legal points, but not on the factual findings in a case. Under the 2001 amendments, the final decision on granting or denying asylum should be made within six months.

The 2001 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 risk torture if returned to their countries of origin.

UNHCR found Poland's asylum legislation to lack adequate procedures for unaccompanied minor asylum seekers. However, draft legislation in October mandated the appointment of guardians for unaccompanied minors. UNHCR also reported that significantly fewer persons were abandoning their asylum applications, and that fewer persons were leaving the country after receiving status during 2002, indicating that Poland is becoming less of a transit point for refugees.

Assistance and Integration

Asylum seekers usually reside in government-run reception centers during the normal asylum procedure. At year's end, about 1,500 asylum seekers were receiving assistance at ten centers around the country.

Recognized refugees have the right to work and receive public assistance on the same terms as citizens, and can apply for permanent residence after three years. Refugees may apply for family members to join them according to EU standards. The Ministry of Labor's Department of Social Assistance is responsible for running integration programs for recognized refugees. However, according to the U.S. State Department, funding for refugee integration is inadequate, and non-governmental organizations must often assist refugees in meeting their basic needs.

Deportation and Border Control Poland has readmission agreements with 19 European countries. During the year, Poland deported some 4,800 migrants, many under readmission agreements. Poland also apprehended some 2,100 persons for illegal border crossings, mostly persons attempting to enter Germany.

In October, the Polish Ministry of Interior announced that its border surveillance would be increased to EU standards by the end of 2003, in preparation for Poland's entry into the EU in 2004. Poland intends to impose visa requirements on nationals from Belarus and Ukraine in July 2003.

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