The report was previously updated in May 2022.
- Access to asylum: In 2022, access to the asylum procedure at the Belarusian border remained the main challenge in the Polish asylum system. According to the Border Guards, in 2022, 12,155 persons were ‘prevented from irregular crossings of the border’. Additionally, the Border Guard issued orders to leave Poland to 2,488 persons. On the Belarusian border, decisions refusing entry were issued towards 2,622 persons in 2022, 1,889 of which were issued at the Terespol border crossing. There was an increase in the number of fatalities and persons injured in the forests close to the border area. Organisations also reported an escalation of violence from officers of the Border Guard.
- Jurisprudence on access to the territory and push backs: There were several judgements issued regarding the situation at the Belarusian border both at the international and domestic levels. According to an HFHR information note from December 2022 on legal developments regarding pushbacks, between October 2021 and December 2022, the ECtHR granted nearly 100 interim measures under Rule 39 of the Court’s Rules of Procedure, ordering the Polish authorities to refrain from returning the complaining applicants to Belarus, considering that this could constitute a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Most of the interim measures issued have already been lifted due to the initiation of lawful procedures regarding foreigners in the territory of Poland (proceedings on return or on granting international protection in the territory of the Republic of Poland). As a result, the risk of these individuals being immediately sent back to Belarus was no longer a concern. Individual complaints were filed in some of these cases, and several of them have already been communicated to the Polish government.
- Key asylum statistics: 9,933 people, among whom 2,695 children, presented asylum applications in Poland in 2022. In Terespol, the Border Guards received applications for international protection from 1,029 persons. In the Podlaskie Border Guard Unit (which covered the restricted access border area), another 1,070 applications were registered. The main countries of origin of the applicants were Belarus, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Iraq and Afghanistan. The overall recognition rate at first instance stood at 75.5%.
- Access to reception conditions: The humanitarian crisis at the Polish-Belarusian border that started in 2021 and continued in 2022 left many prospective asylum seekers without any or proper access to material reception conditions, including medical assistance. Moreover, the prolongation of the provision of the material reception conditions beyond the regular time-frames due to the COVID-19 pandemic lasted only until 15 May 2022. Since 24 February 2022, it is possible to grant a financial allowance for asylum seekers living outside reception centres without their prior registration in one of the first-reception centres.
- Reception conditions preceding Dublin transfers: The rules concerning access to assistance before and during the Dublin transfer have been changed in April 2023. Now, the decision is made by the Chief Commander of the Border Guard (instead of the Head of the Office for Foreigners) and the motion must be submitted within 21 days (instead of 30).
- Housing: Two reception centres that were made available in 2021 to the Border Guard for detention purposes have been returned under the management of the Office for Foreigners in mid-2022. After June 2022, they went back to serve as reception centres for asylum seekers.
- Financial allowances: Despite the plans to increase financial allowances for asylum seekers and the civil society pleadings that the allowances are grossly insufficient, in 2022, only one of them was slightly raised, i.e. a financial equivalent for meals in the reception centres (PLN 11 raised from PLN 9 per day).
- Information provision: In 2022, new-coming asylum seekers could again participate in courses on basic information about Poland and the asylum procedure. Before, such courses were terminated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Education: In March 2022, the number of maximum foreign students in a preparatory class was raised from 15 to 25 minors and the minimum number of hours for learning the Polish language during a week was increased from 3 to 6 hours.
Detention of asylum seekers
- Detention of vulnerable applicants: Children with families are still detained in Poland on a regular basis and the best interest of a child principle is commonly not taken into account in court proceedings; no identification system for victims of violence is in place, and victims of torture can be placed in detention centres.
- Conditions in detention centres: Asylum seekers in detention centres have limited access to psychologists working for NGOs or to private medical specialists. Instead, psychological services are offered in detention centres by specialists hired by the Border Guard, which often discourages persons in need from requesting support due to lack of trust.
Content of international protection
- Inclusion: Concerning the situation of international protection beneficiaries, the problems identified in previous reports remained throughout 2022. In general, the integration of refugees has not been perceived as a holistic process by the government and because of that the refugees very often are doomed to poverty and cannot get out of a vicious circle of being dependent on social welfare. The findings of research on integration indicate that the case of Poland is characterized by a lack of an official long-term integration strategy, called for by experts in migration governance and even by the politicians themselves. Several legal acts deal with different aspects of integration policy (narrowed to those concerning the beneficiaries of international protection) yet to a varying degree and not specifically devoted to it.
- Residence permits: The fees for residence permits (karta pobytu) and Polish travel documents for foreigners were significantly increased in 2022. The fee for a residence permit is now twice higher as in 2021 (PLN 100 instead of 50). The fee for a Polish travel document for foreigners was raised 3,5 times (PLN 350 instead of 100). Moreover, in response to the war in Ukraine, all the time limits in the cases already considered by Voivodes and the Office for Foreigners (including concerning permanent residence permits and EU long-term residence permits) were suspended, first, until the end of the year, and next, until 24 August 2023. In new cases, the time limits did not start to run.
Temporary protection procedure
- Legal framework: There are two temporary protection mechanisms in Poland: a general one, arising from the Act on Protection of 2003, and a special one, based on the Special Law adopted in March 2022. Both apply to persons fleeing the war in Ukraine who are eligible for temporary protection under the EU law, albeit they apply to different groups of beneficiaries. They also offer different rights to their beneficiaries.
- Qualification: Special temporary protection is available only to Ukrainian nationals, who came to Poland on or after 24 February 2022 due to the war in Ukraine, and only some of their non-Ukrainian family members. General temporary protection applies to other persons deemed eligible for temporary protection under EU law. Poland did not extend the personal scope of temporary protection offered to persons displaced from Ukraine by the EU law. However, some special rules have been adopted extending the legal stay in Poland of some Ukrainian nationals who were not eligible for temporary protection. Other third-country nationals fleeing the war in Ukraine were not offered any state assistance beyond a right to a 15-day humanitarian entry to Poland; some were detained in Poland. In 2022, there were over 1.5 million special temporary protection beneficiaries. 1,301 persons enjoyed general temporary protection in 2022, with 1,224 beneficiaries as of 31 December 2022.
- Admission: While initially the Polish borders were opened for persons displaced from Ukraine, soon the Polish Border Guard started to issue decisions on a refusal of entry at the Polish-Ukrainian border. In the period of March-December 2022, the Border Guard issued in total 14.063 decisions on a refusal of entry at this border (including 11,745 Ukrainian nationals). Persons seeking protection in Poland due to the war in Ukraine, including recognized temporary protection beneficiaries, were amongst those who had been denied entry.
- Registration: Ukrainian nationals and some members of their families can register to obtain a special personal identification number ‘PESEL UKR’. Obtaining this number is not mandatory, however, access to some rights is conditioned upon acquiring it. In 2022, approx. 1,502,620 persons were given ‘PESEL UKR’ in Poland. Moreover, 1,301 other third-country nationals have been registered as temporary protection beneficiaries under the Act on Protection.
Content of temporary protection
- Access to rights: Temporary protection beneficiaries have access to most of the rights provided for in the EU law, however, this access differs depending on being recognized as a special or general temporary protection beneficiary. Thus, Ukrainian nationals’ access to rights differs from the access given to international protection beneficiaries and permanent residence holders from Ukraine.
- Residence permits: Until July 2022, Ukrainian nationals and some of their family members who were recognized as temporary protection beneficiaries in Poland were not given any residence permit. In July 2022, the electronic document ‘Diia.pl’ was introduced. However, some persons, in particular children, struggled with accessing the ‘Diia.pl’. As of 31 December 2022, only approx. 850 temporary protection beneficiaries had access to this document. Moreover, at the end of the year, 1.224 third-country nationals were having a valid certificate confirming that they were enjoying general temporary protection in Poland.
- Family reunification: No family reunification procedure for temporary protection beneficiaries is in place, neither in law nor in practice.
- Movement and mobility: The movement and mobility of temporary protection beneficiaries were hampered due to the lack of residence permits, the rule that temporary protection is withdrawn upon a 30-day absence in Poland, and the unfavourable practices of the Polish Border Guard.
- Housing: Most of the persons displaced from Ukraine were living privately in Poland. There is a special financial allowance for persons who offered their apartments and houses to Ukrainian nationals free-of-charge. Since March 2023, those Ukrainian nationals who are accommodated by the Polish authorities are allowed to live there cost-free for 120 days, afterwards, they should co-participate in the costs of their living. International protection beneficiaries and permanent residence holders from Ukraine can live in the reception centres for asylum seekers, but only 6 persons opted for this possibility in 2022.
- Access to the labour market: Temporary protection beneficiaries have access to the labour market – upon (Ukrainian nationals and some of their family members) or without (other beneficiaries) notification.
- Access to education: Ukrainian children were allowed to continue learning online within the Ukrainian education system. Thus, only some of them entered Polish schools in 2022. Despite this, the Polish education system has been overburdened. Some special rules were adopted to facilitate coping with the unprecedented challenge of accepting thousands of new Ukrainian pupils to Polish schools.
 R.A. and others v. Poland, complaint no. 42120/21, communicated on 27.09.2021; K.A. v. Poland and M.A. and others v. Poland, complaint nos. 52405/21 and 53402/21, communicated on 1.06.2022; F.A. and S.H. v. Poland, complaint no. 54862/21, communicated on 20.06.2022.
 K. Sobczak-Szelc, M. Pachocka, K. Pędziwiatr, J. Szałańska, ‘Integration Policies, Practices and Responses. Poland – Country Report’, Multilevel Governance of Mass Migration in Europe and Beyond Project (#770564, Horizon2020), available at: http://bit.ly/3bfjTxL, 10.