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International protection in Poland: the first half of 2021

According to the information of the Office for Foreigners, 1678 people lodged applications for international protection during the first half of 2021. The main group of migrants seeking protection in Poland were citizens of Belarus, Russia Federation and Afghanistan. 

The number of applicants increased by 27% in comparison to the same period in 2020. The changes have been noticed also in terms of positive decisions granting international protection. Although the average recognition rate was a record high, there were significant differences among various groups of migrants. 

The significant majority (76,3%) of cases were first time applications. Almost 47% of claims were submitted to the Border Guard Office in Warsaw, while another applications have been lodged in the Border Guards posts on the external borders with Belarus (9% in Biała Podlaska BG post and 8% in  Bobrowniki BG post). It is worth mentioning that cross border trafficking between Poland and Belarus has been temporally limited due to, earlier, COVID pandemic and then also due to political situation in the neighbouring contry, restrictions on movement provided by the regime and EU sanctions after the plane diversion, that took place in May 2021.  

The largest groups of people who submitted asylum requests in Poland were citizens of Belarus (667), Russia Federation (465) and Afghanistan (140). To compare, in 2020 numerically the largest group of asylum seekers were citizenship of Russia Federation, mainly Chechens (1283 applicants). The increase in arrivals of Belarusians have been related to ongoing political prosecutions. As solidarity actions the Polish authorities introduced a range of support programs, including the facilitation of visa procedures. From the beginning of the year to July 31, Poland granted almost 9,000 humanitarian visas to repressed Belarusians. According to the Polish law, the humanitarian visa is issued for the period of one year and guarantees the access to labour market. The significant role of the document is that it allows the person to enter the territory of Poland legally. On the basis of the humanitarian visa he or she might decide to apply for international protection at any time.

After registering the asylum application, for the period of all administration procedure the person is entitled to social assistance provided by the Office for Foreigners. The person can choose to live in accommodation center or to receives cash benefits to cover living costs outside the center. In the first half of 2021 3,798 people benefited from social assistance, where 19% lived in one of accommodation centres. Around 42% of migrants who received social assistance were female asylum seekers. 

During the first half of 2021 the Head of the Office for Foreigners issued 391 positive decisions. Hence, only 28% of the total decisions were positive (granting one of the forms of protection). Only 77 people received the refugee status. The main form of protection status was subsidiary protection (granted to 314 migrants). The recognition rate varies among different groups of applicants: the highest recognitions rate was among citizens  from Belarus (100%) and Turkey (89%). According to the statistics, during the first half of 2021, 282 Belarusians received positive decisions. 

The share of negative decisions remains high, during the discussed period national officials issued 613 negative decision and 371 decisions on discontinuing the case. There were mainly people with Russian (289) and Ukrainian (139) citizenships who received  negative decisions. Withdrawals accounted 28% of the total and mainly concerned  citizens of Afghanistan. 

Kseniya Homel 
NIEM Field Researcher 
The Migration Policy Programme
Institute of Public Affairs


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