20 March 2015

The new AIDA report on Poland, written by ECRE member the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, underlines that many Ukrainian citizens had their asylum applications rejected in Poland in 2014. In 2014, asylum applications from Ukrainian citizens reached 2,318, 34% of the total number of asylum claims lodged that year in Poland. Among these Ukrainian applicants, 645 had their asylum claim rejected, while 372 decisions were discontinued. 11 applicants were issued a “tolerated stay” permit, and six were granted subsidiary protection. The other cases are pending.

Polish authorities refused to grant international protection to Ukrainians, considering that the western part of Ukraine is a safe zone to which Ukrainians from conflict zones in the east could reasonably be expected to relocate.

Regarding Border Guard practices in establishing the identity of asylum seekers, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights reported that there were cases of Iranian, Vietnamese and Belarusian asylum seekers who were asked to meet the representatives from their country of origin consulates in order to confirm their identity while their first asylum claim was being processed. According to the Polish authorities, such activities did not involve disclosing the information that the person concerned had applied for asylum, and therefore, they argued, the practice was in accordance with the law. However, in the opinion of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, organising a meeting itself poses a threat to the asylum seeker or his relatives in the country of origin.

Furthermore, the report stresses that a new asylum law transposing the recast Procedures and Reception Conditions Directives in Poland will introduce, among other changes, a wider definition of vulnerable applicants. The new definition will include elderly people, pregnant women and single parents, currently not considered as vulnerable by law and in practice. Consequently, the special needs of these groups will have to be considered during the asylum procedure and in the provision of reception conditions, such as accommodation. However, the report notes that according to UNHCR, Poland’s existing identification mechanism is not considered effective for people with special needs, including victims of violence and traumatised people. In addition, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights highlights that, whilst forbidden by law, asylum-seeking children are detained in practice if there are doubts on their age.

Finally, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights expresses concerns over migrants being sent back to Greece under readmission agreements without information being provided on whether they applied for asylum in Poland or whether their situation upon arrival in Greece was evaluated at all. These cases were identified by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights during their monitoring of return operations.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 20 March 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.