According to the UNHCR, 15,741 refugees resided in Poland in December 2014. In 2014 5,610 first time asylum applications were made, a decrease from a peak of 13,970 in 2013 (data from Eurostat).
Between 2009 and 2015 the largest number of asylum applications in Poland came from Russian citizens (the majority of them are from Chechenia). Due to the conflict in Eastern Ukraine there was inflow of asylum seekers from Ukraine (2,318 applications in 2014; 1,042 between 1st January and 14th May 2015) and a parallel increase in the numbers of applications for temporary residence from Ukrainian citizens. These numbers were small relative to the population of Poland of over 38 million.
The Government’s approach
Poland along with other Visegrad Group states strongly opposed the quotas of refugee relocation. Despite this Poland voted in favour of the refugee relocation plan. However, in October’s parliamentary elections, the government party is likely to lose to an opposition of Law and Justice, the latter against receiving refugees.
The country favours Christian refugees, for example one private organisation scheme (agreed by the government) welcomed 50 Christian families from Syria in Poland.
In preparation to accept refugees, on 15th September an inter-governmental Committee on the resettlement and relocation of refugees was established with the aim of coordinating the work of the government in cooperation with non-governmental and religious organisations, churches and local government and designing an integration plan for refugees in Poland.
Refugees in host communities
As in other countries in Europe, rallies both pro- and against refugees took place in the main Polish cities.
Lech Poznan football fans boycotted Europa League’s game because 1 euro was donated by UEFA to the refugees for each ticket sold. Banner ‘Stop Islamization’ was hung at the stadium entrance.
Intellectuals, artists and politicians signed solidarity appeal from Central Europe in response to the migrant crisis.
Negative attitudes towards immigrants were reflected in some media. Press closer to the political centre makes claims for solidarity. One of the leading newspapers, Gazeta Wyborcza blocked the possibility of posting comments on its online articles arguing the step was taken because of hate speech.
Gazeta Wyborcza with other Polish media and under the auspices of the Office for Foreigners, prepared a joint information campaign: ‘More knowledge – less fear – refugees in Poland’. The campaign provided information about refugees in Poland, including their numbers, origin, definitions, etc. The information was distributed with the paper edition of main newspapers and on leading web portals. The information booklet is available in Polish on the Office for Foreigners’ website.
Gazeta Wyborcza was among the signatories of the open call by European newspaper editors urging the EU to act in response to the refugee crisis.
In spring 2015, only 9 per cent of Poles declared that immigration is one of the main issues facing the country. This was an increase of 2 percentage points from autumn 2014.