According to the definition contained in the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees (also referred to as the Geneva Convention), a refugee is a person who resides outside his/her country of origin and has a justified fear of persecution in that country on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political views or belonging to a specific social group.
In the light of the provisions of the Convention, persecution should be understood as damage or harm caused by the state or its organs or failure to obtain protection from the state against persecution by other persons. Such damage must be significant and violate fundamental human rights.
People who will be granted a refugee status in Poland have a number of rights, including the right to stay in Poland, protection against expulsion of a refugee from the country, with the exceptions indicated in art. 32 and 33 of the Geneva Convention, the right to work or the right to social assistance and other benefits. Assistance can also be obtained in special refugee centers, where they can count on accommodation, meals, medical assistance or coverage of school costs. Proceedings in a refugee status case are initiated at the request of a foreigner, submitted through the Border Guard (Straż Graniczna).
During the proceedings, the foreigner is issued with a temporary foreigner’s identity certificate (TZTC), which entitles him/her to stay in Poland. The certificate is valid for 30 days (extended for further periods if no final decision has been issued). It should be noted that refugee status is not the only form of protection that a foreigner can obtain in Poland. Art. 3 ust. 1 of the Act on granting protection to foreigners within the territory of the Republic of Poland, also mentions subsidiary protection, asylum or temporary protection.
People seeking international and national protection are a diverse group which, due to special circumstances, cannot function securely and with dignity in their country of origin. The development of sustainable, systemic solutions that will ensure the safety of displaced persons is the essence of the activities of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Resettlement to another country is, on the one hand, an excellent mechanism for sharing responsibility between host countries, and on the other hand, contributes to strengthening solidarity between countries by dividing a large group of foreigners in need of protection between countries.
According to UNHCR research, from all the cases of people in need of resettlement reported in 2019 was due to the inability to provide adequate protection and support by the countries of origin – as much as 76% concerned persons had experienced violence and/or torture. Just over 52% of all resettlement applications concerned children. Official government statistics reported to UNHCR over the past 10 years indicate that 55% of all displaced refugees found a home in the United States of America, as much as 20% in Canada and 11% in Australia.
The latest UNHCR report indicates that refugees are making a significant contribution to the economic and social structures of host countries. Research conducted in Canada in 2019 indicates that refugees have created many jobs for themselves and other Canadians, e.g. by setting up their own businesses.
When returning to a country of origin or resettlement are impossible, the challenge of starting a new life in the host country should be taken up. Local integration enables ensuring adequate legal status and naturalization of refugees. Naturalization is a process of obtaining citizenship of a given country, it is sometimes used as a proxy for local integration. The integration process is dynamic and bidirectional. On the one hand, refugees must prepare for the need to adapt to the conditions prevailing in the new place, on the other, local society and public institutions dealing with the reception of refugees should strive to meet the needs of a diverse population. It seems necessary to support social cohesion and ensure access to the labor market.
To sum up, the available refugee protection measures require the involvement of both those in need and the host. Due to the growing phenomenon of forced resettlement of people, we also encourage you to read the entire report in English.
The text is based on the UNHCR report, the UN Refugee Agency for 2019.