Poland’s Schroedinger’s refugees

Categories Poland
Operation in eastern Ukraine (War Ukraine) / Ministry of Defence of Ukraine / CC BY-SA 2.0

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo keeps insisting there’s a million refugees from Ukraine in Poland. Official government data insist otherwise.

Last month, on the meeting on 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaties, Beata Szydlo has again spoken on the issue, asked about Poland’s approach to the refugee crysis:

Poland receives over a million refugees from Ukraine. But I think that the Union’s migration policy, as it is now, is not effective.

It’s not the first time the Premier mentions the number. She said in the European Parliament in Strasbourg on January 17, 2016:

I come here today, for I have a deep feeling of responsibility for what happens in Poland and Europe. Speaking of migration, and migrants, Poland received about a million refugees from Ukraine. A million people nobody was willing to help.

Data gathered by the Office of the Foreigners’ Affairs1 say something else.

In 2014, there were 1,034 Ukrainians who applied for international protection in Poland – a refugee status or supplementary protection. 2 received supplementary protection. 645 were rejected and 372 cases were discarted. 

In 2015, 2 people received a refugee status, and another 24 were given supplementary protection. 1775 cases were rejected, 764 discarted.

Last year, 32 Ukrainians were granted refugee status, and 64 – the supplementary protection. And this year, as of March 26, the Office handed a refugee status to 3 Ukrainians, and supplementary protection to another 52. 696 were refused in 2016 (434 discarted). In 2017, 126 were denied, and 59 discarted.

In general, about 12,000 foreigners applied for the protection in 2016. 73% of those were people holding a Russian passport, usually Chechens. 11% were Ukrainians and 7% came from Tajikistan. Overally, there were about 7,000 more applications than the year before. 

390 people received a refugee status or supplementary protection. 2,000 cases received a negative reply and 9,500 were discarted. 

In total, since 2014, 178 refugees in Poland are from Ukraine.

A million. Just not this one

There’s a million of Ukrainians in Poland – but not refugees. They’re economic migrants. Employers put forward 1,31 million declarations to employ foreigners in 2016 – 1,26 million concerned Ukrainian citizens. An actual number may be lower, since a foreigner may not show up, have his visa application rejected, or may be covered by numerous employers.

National Bank of Poland’s Department of Statistics confirms the number to be around a million. However, their 2016 research paper2 stated that considering a temporary nature of jobs Ukrainians are usually taking, about 500,000 are in Poland at the same time. 

On average, Ukraine’s nationals came to Poland 9 times since 1989. Record-holders came to the country 43 times in the same period – or 2-3 times a year.

According to the paper, 41% of Ukrainians coming to Poland for work in years 2014-2015 have not been to the country before. 12% of the people new to Poland said their reason to come was Ukraine’s political situation. Of those who have been here before, 7% said the same.

This reflected in the reaction of the Ukraine’s ambassador to Poland, Andrij Deszczyca, who said in January last year that Ukrainians here are economic migrants who do not get any welfare. He suggested the application acceptance is so low because Poland considers Ukraine’s territory outside the war-stricken area to be safe. 

At the other hand, the government’s spokesman Rafal Bochenek said the Premier meant to show the migrants’ population has been growing rapidly in recent years, which “can only be explained by the military actions in the country.” He noted the refugee status application procedure is complicated, so Ukrainians rather go for a visa or a residence card.

photo: Ministry of Defense of Ukraine/Flickr