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10 September 2021 – Poland

Polish Border Guards Detain People Attempting to Cross the Border Between Belarus and Poland on 9 August 2021 (Main Command of the Polish Border Patrol, Reuters,
Polish Border Guards Detain People Attempting to Cross the Border Between Belarus and Poland on 9 August 2021 (Main Command of the Polish Border Patrol, Reuters, "Afghans Stranded in Poland Refuse to Return to Belarus," Infomigrants, 23 August 2021,

Poland has experienced important reductions in the number of arriving asylum seekers since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic: in 2020, there were 2,803 asylum applications, compared with 4,096 in 2019. According to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, as of 1 January 2021, there were 1,319 persons holding valid residence cards for refugees, 1,467 persons holding a residence card granted to subsidiary protection beneficiaries and 1,743 persons under the humanitarian protection scheme.

Despite the decrease in asylum pressures, public discourse in the country remains rife with anti-immigrant rhetoric. Few asylum seekers are granted protection: in 2017, 5,053 people lodged applications, but only 150 were granted refugee status and in 2020, 2,803 applications were lodged and only 161 were granted refugee status.

Following the withdrawal of US and coalition forces from Afghanistan and Taliban takeover, thousands of Afghan nationals have left the country. Poland airlifted some 1,000 Afghan nationals and gave them access to asylum procedures. However, Human Rights Watch reported on 2 September 2021, that Poland had “trapped” 32 Afghans for over three weeks at its border with Belarus, preventing them from entering the country to seek asylum and denying them access to food and medicine. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ordered Poland to allow aid to reach the group of Afghan nationals, but so far, the Government has not done so. According to Balkan Insight, Polish border guards have been unlawfully pushing people back across the border to Belarus using excessive force in some cases. UNHCR has also called upon Poland to allow the group to apply for asylum urging the “government to make an individualised assessment of each case before expelling these people or preventing them from entering the territory.” Poland reported that it had detained 900 migrants who crossed from Belarus this year, 349 of them in the first week of August alone, compared to 122 migrants in the whole of 2020.

According to information provided to the GDP from part of the Polish Commissioner for Human Rights, the country refused to issue a moratorium on new immigration detention orders in the months after the onset of the pandemic (see Poland 7 July 2020 update on this platform). In addition, the National Integration Evaluation Mechanism (NIEM) reported that despite the national lockdown ordered during the COVID-19 crisis, Polish border guards continued the deportation of rejected asylum seekers to Chechnya. Poland also restricted access to asylum procedures during the COVID-19 crisis as the Office for Foreigners suspended direct customer services and certain limitations on the submission of asylum applications at border crossings. Also, according to an international organisation, who asked to remain anonymous, but whose identity was verified by the GDP, some detainees were released when deportations could not be performed due to border closures (see Poland 7 August 2020 update on this platform). Nonetheless, the GDP has been unable to obtain details on COVID-19 related measures taken to safeguard people in immigration custody.

The country has begun a national vaccination campaign against COVID-19 and also passed legislation that guarantees that all foreigners in Poland (including refugees and asylum seekers) the right to be vaccinated free of charge. Nonetheless, this “right” only applies to those persons that can provide evidence of their residence in the country. Yet, asylum seekers who are in reception centres are vaccinated depending on their priority status, according to the national vaccination campaign.