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Step backwards in granting protection to foreigners – HFHR’s comments on proposed amendment

The HFHR has sent to the Ministry of the Interior and Administration its comments on the proposed amendment to the Law on legal protection for foreigners in Poland.

The Foundation is concerned about the direction of changes laid down in the amendment. Proposals to introduce border procedures and a list of safe third countries and safe countries of origin, the absence of an effective measure of appeal against a denial of legal protection as well as automatic imprisonment of nearly all foreigners applying for international protection in Poland are some of the proposed changes that, according to the HFHR, will lead to a systemic violation of rights of foreigners enshrined in the Geneva Convention of 1951 and international law. “The measures contained in the amendment also raise doubts as to their conformity with EU law”, says Danuta Przywara, HFHR President of the Board.

In the explanatory notes to the draft amendment, it is stated that the need for changes will guarantee public order and the protection of internal security. According to sponsors of the amendment, it is a response to the growing migration flow.

However, one should note that foreigners applying for international protection have been staying in Poland since 1990s and have not been a threat to public order or state security. The explanations to the amendment do not contain any specific information suggesting that foreigners applying for protection in Poland pose such a threat. Moreover, it cannot be stated that recently there has been any substantial increase in the number of applications for international protection.

“Applications for international protection account for only 7 percent of applications made by foreigners seeking to legalise their stay. What is more, this share has remained unchanged for at least two years. The only increase in the number of applications applies to those regarding a temporary residence permit”, adds Ewa Ostaszewska-Żuk, an HFHR lawyer.

It was pointed out in the explanations to the draft amendment that a majority of foreigners applying for international protection are not interested in receiving protection in Poland. Instead, they want to migrate to other European Union countries for economic reasons. However, a report of the Supreme Audit Office of 2015 says that the reason why Poland is treated as a transit country is a lack of proper integration scheme. This is confirmed by the HFHR’s analyses.

“The proposed amendment is meant to discourage refugees from seeking protection in Poland. Whereas given the global rise in the number of refugees caused by armed conflicts and persecution, Poland, acting in the spirit of international solidarity, should not only accept refugees but also provide them with adequate protection”, adds Ms Przywara.

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