Migration Policy and Politics in Poland

by Konrad Pędziwiatr | Centre of Migration Research, University of Warsaw

In recent years Poland has become an increasingly attractive destination for immigrants amongst whom Ukrainians form the largest group. In 2016, it recorded the highest number of employment-related residence permits (almost half a million) for third country nationals among the EU Member States. Thus, Poland, whose citizens in the last three decades have significantly contributed to the European migration processes and form a new diaspora of over 2 million persons, is transforming from an emigration towards immigration country.

Although Poland was not affected by the migration and refugee crisis, the forced migration figure started to play a crucial role in the country’s key political development since the parliamentary elections in 2015. Apart from developing a strong securitization narrative about the processes of forced migration, the government led by the Law and Justice Party (PiS) has also implemented new securitization practices and incorporated a national security discourse in their assessment and responses to asylum seekers at the Polish border. In 2016 the key migration policy document „Poland’s migration policy – current status and postulated actions” (2012), developed by previous government in collaboration with partners from academia and civil society, was suspended. Although it was supposed to be swiftly replaced by a brand new policy strategy, this has not happened to this day.

In this context, at the end June 2019, a document entitled “Polish migration policy” prepared by the Ministry of the Interior and Administration (with date 10.06.2019) was revealed during a conference held in the Parliament and communicated to its participants. The Ministry has never officially published this document claiming on its Twitter account on 24th June that “this is a draft version for internal communication” and that only the “final version” will be disclosed to the public. However, the draft was disseminated on the Internet through the web page of one of the civil society actors, namely the Association for Legal Intervention.

The 70-page document begins with depicting the major reasons for the new migration policy, including among others: cancelation of the earlier key policy document, demographic crisis, one of the lowest total fertility rates in the world, dynamically ageing population, migration processes and depopulation of the country. It ambitiously aims at contributing to building “a Polish model of active migration policy” that would improve the management of emigration and immigration processes and integration of foreigners, as well as, create incentives for foreigners to settle in Poland. All these actions need to be taken, according to the unknown authors of the document, in such a way that they would not jeopardize security of the state.

The category of “security” which appears twice already on the first page of the introduction and over 70 times in the whole document creates one of its dominant frames. This frame is at odds with Polish migration realities for it is usually its citizens or members of the Polish diaspora living outside of the country, rather than immigrants residing in Poland, who are involved in acts of law violation. However, this feature of the document is closely linked with the aforementioned government’s strong securitization of some types of migration in the form of a speech acts, as well as, bureaucratic and technical practices.  Contradictorily, on the one hand, the analyzed document acknowledges that immigrants are needed in order to mitigate some of the future problems of the country and, on the other, depicts them as prospective threats to security of the country, and Polish culture.

As far as people seeking international protection are concerned the draft of new migration policy of Poland mentions them most of the time in the context of a security threat. The word “refugees” is mentioned 24 times in the document and is usually associated with illegal migration, threat to security of the country, and enforced expulsions. Persons fleeing persecutions and wars are presented as bogus refugees who abuse migration laws. The analysed document envisages further restrictions on the reception and limitations of the types of persons who could claim asylum. As a consequence, the proposed recommendations, if put in place, could further endanger the rights of people seeking asylum in Poland.

The authors of the draft document lying down main features of the supposed new Polish migration policy have not consulted it with key stakeholders in migration field:  research centres, NGOs or the Committee of Migration Studies of the Polish Academy of Science. Members of the academia and civil society have strongly criticised both the content and the processes of development of the document. These reactions should lay ground for the beginning of work on the new policy document.

Further reading:

Jaskułowski, K., & Matusz, P. (2019, lipiec 4). Polityka migracyjna Polski. Kali wynarodowić - Dobrze, Kalego wynarodowić - Źle.  Wyborcza.pl website: http://wyborcza.pl/7,75968,24960443,kali-wynarodowic-dobrze-kalego-wynarodowic-zle.html (accessed 05.08.2019)

KBnM. (2019). Stanowisko Komitetu Badań nad Migracjami PAN w sprawie dokumentu „Polityka migracyjna Polski”. Komitet Badań nad Migracjami PAN website: http://www.kbnm.pan.pl/images/Stanowisko_KBnM_Polska_polityka_migracyjna_03072019.pdf (accessed 05.08.2019)

Legut, A., & Pędziwiatr, K. (2018). Sekurytyzacja migracji w polityce polskiej a zmiana postaw Polaków wobec uchodźców. W R. Jończy (Red.), Sami swoi? Wielokulturowość we współczesnej Europie (s. 41–51). Gliwice-Opole: Dom Współpracy Polsko-Niemieckiej. http://www.haus.pl/pliki/news/File/XXII_SS_PL.pdf (accessed 05.08.2019)

MSWiA. (2019). Polityka migracyjna Polski - Projekt z dnia 10 czerwca 2019 r. Ministerstwo Spraw Wewnętrznych i Administracji: https://interwencjaprawna.pl/wp-content/uploads/2019/06/Polityka-migracyjna-Polski-wersja-ostateczna.pdf (accessed 05.08.2019)

Pędziwiatr, K. (2016). Islamophobia in Poland: National Report 2015. In: F. Hafez & E. Bayrakli (ed.), European Islamophobia Report 2015 (423–441). Istanbul: SETA. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304011990_Islamophobia_in_Poland_National_Report_2015 (accessed 05.08.2019)

Pędziwiatr, K. (2019). Religious Dimension of the Polish Fears of Muslims and Islam. In: I. Zampi & Awan (Red.), The Routledge International Handbook of Islamophobia (212–224). Abindon, Oxon, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Pędziwiatr, K., & Legut, A. (2016). Polskie rządy wobec unijnej strategii na rzecz przeciwdziałania kryzysowi migracyjnemu. W K. A. Wojtaszczyk & J. Szymańska (Red.), Uchodźcy w Europie: Uwarunkowania, istota, następstwa (s. 608–628). Oficyna Wydawnicza ASPRA-JR. https://www.academia.edu/30941600/Polskie_rz%C4%85dy_wobec_unijnej_strategii_na_rzecz_przeciwdzia%C5%82ania_kryzysowi_migracyjnemu (accessed 05.08.2019)

Szulecka, M., Pachocka, M., Sobczak-Szelc, K., (2018) Poland - Country Report. Legal and Policy Framework of Migration Governance. Respond Report available on https://www.respondmigration.com/wp-blog/2018/8/1/comparative-report-legal-and-policy-framework-of-migration-governance-pclyw-ydmzj-bzdbn-sc548 (accessed 05.08.2019)

Szymczak, J. (2019, czerwiec 25). Polityka migracyjna PiS budowana na dyskryminacji: Byle nie muzułmanie. Wykaz krajów niebezpiecznych. Oko.press website: https://oko.press/polityka-migracyjna-pis-budowana-na-dyskryminacji-byle-nie-muzulmanie-wykaz-krajow-niebezpiecznych/ (accessed 05.08.2019)

Żyła, M. (2019, lipiec 1). Szukając Świętego Graala. Tygodni Powszechny website https://www.tygodnikpowszechny.pl/szukajac-swietego-graala-159411 (accessed 05.08.2019)

Thumbnail image: Illustration via iStock

Content image: Illustration via unsplash.com | Pawel Czerwinski