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Ministry of Interior responds to a legal interpretation unfavourable to foreigners

In a letter to the HFHR, the Ministry of Interior agreed to review the practice of applying the provisions governing the status of foreigners unable to obtain a passport. According to initial communications with the Head of the Office for Foreigners, the MoI approached the issue differently than administrative organs.

Under the Foreigners Act, a foreigner applying for a residence permit is required to present a travel document. If the applicant is unable to produce a travel document, the organ may accept other ID but first asks the foreigner to submit a certificate issued by the respective embassy, proving that the applicant cannot obtain the passport from their home country. The problem is that embassies usually refuse to issue such certificates.

“We are glad the MoI took an interest in this issue, especially because, despite our interventions and litigation involvement, we haven’t yet been able to change this overly restrictive and unfavourable interpretation of the rules establishing the requirement to present a travel document or prove inability to obtain the same”, says Karolina Rusiłowicz, a lawyer with the Legal Assistance to Refugees and Migrants Programme.

The HFHR has repeatedly raised this problem in its statements addressed to the Ministry and the Governor of the Mazowieckie Province. We have referred, among other things, to other types of administrative proceedings involving the issue.

This time, the MoI explicitly opposed the position of the Head of the Office for Foreigners regarding the problem of inability to obtain a passport by foreigners who have not completed military service back in their country of origin. The HFHR referred to this problem in one of its intervention statements, describing a case of Armenian brothers who have been living in Poland for nearly 20 years but are unable to receive a travel document because they have not completed their mandatory military service in Armenia. The Ministry’s response reads: “Undoubtedly, a duty to perform military service imposed on persons who left their country of origin as minors must be in each individual case thoroughly assessed to avoid potential violations of human rights”.

Further to the response, the MoI announced that delegates of the MoI Department of Migration Policy and the Office for Foreigners are to meet soon to discuss interpretative guidelines for the applicable regulations.

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