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Repealed decisions on the refusal to issue travel documents for two Iraqis

The Head of the Office for Foreigners admitted the HFHR’s complaints directed to the Provincial Administrative Court in Warsaw before their submittal to the Court. He acknowledged that the submissions raised are fully justified. As a consequence, administrative bodies will be once again processing the case of issuing the Polish travel documents for two Iraqis.

Under the Foreigners Act the travel document is to be issued to, among others, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection who cannot obtain the same from the authorities of his or her country of origin. Both foreigners furnished to the Mazovia Province Governor the certificates issued by the Iraqi Embassy in Warsaw which stated that the Embassy didn’t have the necessary infrastructure to issue passports to Iraqi citizens. Therefore, it may only provide them with a substitute travel document enabling them to return to Iraq.

The Mazovia Province Governor held that the foreigners failed to prove that they had no chance to obtain passports in Iraq as they may return to their country to file passport applications. The Governor ignored the fact that the foreigners had been granted subsidiary protection. “The Iraqis appealed against the Governor’s decision arguing that they cannot return to the country because they face the risk of being harmed”, says Karolina Rusiłowicz, a HFHR’s lawyer. “This risk was the main reason why they had been granted protection by Poland, protection against the need to return to Iraq”, adds Ms Rusiłowicz.

The Foundation was joined in the appellate proceedings pending before the Head of the Office for Foreigners as a community organisation. The appellate body upheld decisions of the Province Governor for both foreigners. It concluded that the Embassy’s letter was silent on when the impediments to the issue of travel documents would be removed. It further noted that the foreigners failed to indicate why they needed travel documents.

“We argued in our complaint against the decision of the Head of the Office for Foreigners that the Polish issuing authority was not legally required to investigate why a foreigner applies for a Polish travel document or when, in all probability, he or she would be granted a passport by his or her home country”, says Ms Rusiłowicz.

The HFHR also pointed out that the second-instance body did not respond, in its decision, to the argument raised by the foreigners in the complaint that the Mazovia Province Governor may not expect beneficiaries of subsidiary protection to return to their home country to obtain passports. “We know from our experience that the Head of the Office for Foreigners used to withdraw subsidiary protection status granted to the foreigners who decided to travel to the country of origin, even where it was provided for the short-term, claiming that it wasn’t necessary anymore”, says Ms Rusiłowicz.

In its decisions, approving the Foundation’s complaints lodged in the cases of both foreigners and revoking the decisions of the administrative bodies of both instances, the Head of the Office for Foreigners found that the Mazovia Province Governor should set a date for solving technical problems by the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Warsaw and held that an Embassy’s inability to determine the date should result in acknowledging that it is not possible for foreigners to obtain Iraqi passports.

The body further indicated that the Mazovia Province Governor should consider whether requiring a foreigner to return to his or her country of origin is not a violation of the subsidiary protection status.

“We are happy with this particular resolution but we are concerned about the practice of administrative bodies which deny applications for Polish travel documents to foreigners having subsidiary protection. We also have concerns that the needs of this particular group are not taken into consideration in conducting the proceedings”, concludes Ms Rusiłowicz.

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