Poland’s prime minister announced that Poland has hosted more than a million Ukrainian refugees in the last years. “We feel a strong sense of responsibility for what is happening not only in Poland but in Europe” – said Beata Szydlo during her speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, “Poland has received about one million refugees from Ukraine, people whom no one wanted to help”.
European deputies met Szydlo’s pronouncement with stormy applause.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Poland Andriy Deshchytsia rejected Szydlo’s assertion. “There are no Ukrainian refugees in Poland, they are economic migrants who are in Poland legally and fill the vacancies that became open when millions of Poles went abroad in search of better jobs” he said.
These people not only do not ask for social help, they pay their taxes, are highly qualified and have good reputations, stressed Deshchytsia.
According to the news agency Ukrinform, last year 930,000 Ukrainians received Polish visas.
The number of Ukrainian refugees in Poland is minimal. Polish television channel tvn 24 reported that according to Poland’s Office for Foreigners, 2,253 Ukrainian citizens applied for refugee status in 2015 and only four people officially received that status. However, more than 20,000 Ukrainians live and work in Poland legally.
Government spokesman Rafal Bochenek explained last week that the number of Ukrainians applying for visas has drastically increased over the last two years. He attributed this increase to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the war in eastern Ukraine.
Bochenek also stressed that Poland’s procedure for granting refugee status is very complicated, something the Ukrainians arriving in Poland are familiar with, therefore, they opt to apply for visas or permanent residence.
“The Prime Minister wanted to show that the numbers of Ukrainians arriving in our country in the last years is very high. It’s true that formally they do not have refugee status, but they are really one million” said Bochenek to tvn24.
Shydlo’s claim can be regarded as an attempt to shield Poland from having to accept the thousands of refugees who have lately descended on Europe. The Prime Minister is a member of the Law and Justice Party, a ring-wing nationalist party which does not want refugees to settle in Poland. The party recently won a majority in parliament and is known for its criticism of the EU’s refugee policies.