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Refugee rights still threatened in Poland

Foreigners who apply for the refugee status encounter multiple obstacles on every stage of the proceedings as well as afterwards, according to the HFHR report “Seeking asylum. Selected problems concerning the exercise of rights of the foreigners who applied for the refugee status or were granted international protection in the years 2012-2014. The observations of the Legal Aid Programme for Refugees and Migrants of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights”.

Very frequently, foreigners who come to Poland seeking to be recognised as refugees have no identification document. The Border Guard, as the official body processing the application, is then responsible for establishing the identity of the foreigner in question. The HFHR has learnt that during refugee status determination proceedings, the Border Guard had been applying to diplomatic facilities of the foreigners’ countries of origin. This practice affected nationals of such countries as Belarus, Iran or Vietnam.

“Any actions of the Border Guard which result in disclosing particulars of refugee applicants to the authorities of their countries of origin may violate applicants’ rights, as well as those of their families. Therefore, such actions should not be allowed”, Jacek Białas, an HFHR lawyer, argues. “It is vital to remember that such persons usually declare that they have left their home countries in fear of persecution and they may still be wanted by the authorities of a country in question”, Mr Białas adds.

The personal data of foreigners applying for the refugee status in Poland are collected and processed by the Head of the Office for Foreigners in an IT processing system, called “POBYT”. The system is accessible for officials, courts and uniformed services. Information recorded in the system is used for different purposes, also to review the legality of foreigners’ stay. Thus, it is important to record this information in a timely fashion. However, the HFHR has observed many issues affecting the functioning of the system, which led to violations of the rights of refugees.

“A complaint filed by a refugee against the decision denying them the refugee status and other forms of protection may involve such legal consequences as suspending one’s expulsion from Poland. Plus, in the case of foreigners who file a refugee application for the first time, it enables them to legally stay in Poland during the appellate proceedings”, says Maja Łysienia, a lawyer working with the HFHR.

The HFHR experts also highlight the fact that the applicable law does not regulate the situation of the persons who were granted the refugee status in Poland or elsewhere in the EU but are still subject to extradition proceedings. This is also true of the state-parties to the Geneva Convention named in a third-country application for extradition submitted to the Polish authorities.

The report was developed as part of the project “Lawyers for Refugees V”, which was co-financed by the European Refugee Fund and the state budget. It concludes the activities undertaken by the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights during the three-year project “Lawyers for Refugees V”.

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