These two groups are given the same access to state social benefits as Polish citizens. In addition, they can take up employment without a work permit and attend primary and secondary state schools free of charge. By contrast, integration programmes offered at a local level are accessible only to refugees. These include an obligatory language course as well as assistance in finding accommodation and registering at an employment office. The year-long programmes aim to integrate the refugees in the labour market.
However, due to a lack of personnel, these programmes are not particularly efficient, leaving most refugees in Poland to resort to social welfare services or the assistance of welfare organisations. Migrant workers are not entitled to any form of assistance with integration, which means that they are forced to rely on their own migrant social networks for support.
Refuge and Asylum
Polish asylum and refugee laws have been affected by international conventions (among others, the ratification of the 1991 Geneva Refugee Convention) and adaptation to the restrictive trends in asylum law in most EU member states. The Aliens Act of 1997 facilitated deportation as well as sanctions against transport service providers (carrier sanctions). Since the reform of the Aliens Act in 2001, "clearly unfounded" applications for asylum have been subjected to accelerated processing. This procedure was also intended for applicants from so-called secure states. In practice, however, it is not being applied to this group. The 2003 amendment to the Aliens Act introduced the concept of statutory temporary suspension of deportation.
According to the 1997 law, applications for asylum have to be filed upon entry into Poland. However, the Polish Supreme Administrative Court (Naczelny Sąd Administracyjny) has declared that the practice among the Polish Border Police of periodically denying entry to refugees is not legal.
Between 1992 and 2006, around 59 000 asylum applications were filed (of these, nearly three quarters were filed between 2000 and 2006). Of a total of 7 088 applicants in 2006 (including family members), 90% came from the Russian Federation (6,393 people), almost all from Chechnya. Only 422 people were recognized as refugees (6%); another 2 045, however, were granted the temporary suspension of deportation first introduced in 2003 (28.9%). A total of 91% of those recognized as refugees and 98% of those granted a suspension of deporation were Chechens. Compared with the previous year, the number of applications for asylum did rise slightly (+3.3%), but it was still far below the high point reached in 2004.
Insufficient integration measures are a major problem in Polish asylum and refugee policy. Hence, according to information from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Warsaw, many refugees and asylum applicants decide to journey on to other EU states. Therefore, Poland is mainly a transit country.
Since May 1, 2004, a law on the social integration of refugees has been in force.