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HFHR urges international institutions to address Government’s lack of response to racist incidents

The HFHR sent a call for action to international institutions requesting them to address the recurring acts of violence against, among others, foreigners living in Poland and members of national and ethnic minorities, which has not been properly responded to by Polish authorities.

The call for action was sent to OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Agency for Fundamental Rights, Council of Europe’s European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance and Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) of the European Parliament.

According to the HFHR, an increase in xenophobic sentiments occurred in mid-2015, with the commencement of the public debate on the acceptance and relocation of refugees arriving at the European Union and the parliamentary election campaign in Poland. At the time, some politicians, including current parliamentarians, started using anti-refugee rhetorics. In some Polish cities, protests were held against the acceptance of refugees and, more broadly, Muslims; similar content filled the Internet. Public opinion polls started indicating an increasing anti-refugee sentiment and negative sentiments of other nations. Several attacks against foreigners were recorded. Perpetrators targeted in particular persons whom they (often incorrectly) associated with Islam or the Arab world. Physical and symbolic violence was also directed at Ukrainians.

Despite calls from non-governmental organisations and the academia, Polish Government takes no action to put a stop to this surge of violence and xenophobia. Moreover, 2016 saw the abolishment of two bodies that worked in the area of discrimination, racism and xenophobia – the Human Rights Team at the Ministry of the Interior and Administration and the Council for the Prevention of Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. Poland did not fulfil promises concerning the acceptance of refugees from Syria and Eritrea and relocation of refugees from other EU Member States. In October 2016, the Council of Ministers declared that the two documents that had previously provided a framework for Poland’s migration policy – “Poland’s Policy on Migration – Current State and Proposed Actions”, and the Implementation Plan for the above document – were no longer part of the Government’s official policy.

Another cause for concern is the issue of distribution of financial measures allocated for the purposes of national and ethnic minorities and for migrants and refugees. In 2016, the Ministry of the Interior and Administration allocated a mere two-thirds of the dedicated budget reserve for the financing of the culture of minorities in 2017. Furthermore, since 2015 the Government has resolved none of the four competitions launched as part of the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. Such an obstruction causes a slow decay of the entire aid structure that has been long built to support the integration of foreigners coming to Poland”, the document reads.

“Considering all these facts, it’s difficult to avoid the impression that the incumbent authorities’ failure to address racism is not merely an oversight but an attempt at implementing the vision of an ethnically and religiously uniform state. A state that violates their obligations under international treaties by failing to respect the rights of minorities and protect persons staying within its territory against racism and discrimination”, HFHR minorities expert Agnieszka Mikulska commented the disseminated statement.

The full call for action is available for reading here.

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