1 E n g l i s h E D i t i o n ISSN Dear Reader, You are looking at a double issue of Refugee.pl! And here you will find: EUROREFUGEES Refugee rights in the European Union The procedure of applying for a refugee status in Denmark, Great Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Holland SUPPLEMENT OF GEORGIA A broad supplement especially for Georgian citizens living in Poland The ABC s for applicants, how to apply for a refugee status How refugee centres look like ALSO IN ISSUE: How to tackle the flu? A photo essay Children from Markelo Our editorial staff of REFUGEE.PL comprises mainly volunteers. You can also be part of the team. Write an to: Which state will be responsible for examining your application for asylum? Council of the European Union Regulation Dublin II Dorota Głowacka Foreign nationals who have applied for asylum in Poland are obliged to stay in its territory until the decision on their asylum application is made by the Office for Foreigners or after the appeal by the Council for Refugees. If they leave for another EU state during the asylum process and attempt to lodge an asylum application there, they may be removed back to Poland. The above scenario is conceivable because Poland, as a member of EU, is bound by the provisions of the Dublin II Regulation. Based on provisions of this Regulation Member States establish which of them should examine the given asylum application. It is immaterial where the applicant would like to apply for protection. It is important to know the details of the Regulation, as it contains a number of criteria, which the Member States use to decide where the applicant would wait for the decision on his/her asylum claim to be taken. Thus: 1. If you are an unaccompanied minor your application should be examined by the state where your family members are legally present provided that this is in your best interest. (Article 6). 2. If a member of your family has already been granted a refugee status or whose application has not yet been the subject of the first decision, your application should be examined in that state, where your family members reside. (Article 7 and 8). 3. Moreover the state responsible for examining your asylum application is the one: which has earlier issued a visa or a residence document to you (Article 9) into whose territory you entered irregularly crossing the border (Article 10) in which the need to have a visa for citizens of your country has been waived (Article 11) which you have reached by air and where you have lodged an application for asylum in an international transit area of an airport (Article 12) If none of the above situations describes yours, the first Member State with which the application for asylum was lodged shall be responsible for examining it. (Article 13). On the basis of this provision third country nationals are most often sent back to Poland. Putting the provisions of the Regulation into practice If a state with which your asylum application has been lodged establishes that one of the abovementioned circumstances exists and decides that another EU country should examine the application, it may request this country to take or take back the applicant (Articles 16 20). For example: an Iraqi national has applied for asylum in Poland, then left for Holland and there applied again. Dutch authorities have the right to demand that Poland takes the Iraqi back. At the same time they are not responsible for examining the validity of the claim. The transfer of the Iraqi to Poland shall be carried out in accordance with the Dutch law and the cost shall be born by Holland. The transfer means escorting the asylum seeker to the border of the country concerned (here: Poland) by the police or border guards and should be arranged as soon as possible, and at the latest within six months of acceptance of the request by the receiving country. An asylum seeker can appeal from the decision on being transferred to another country. It does not however mean that he/she can automatically remain in the country where his/her application has been lodged until the review is made. Each Member State set out different rules regarding this. In Portugal an asylum seeker who appealed from the decision on transfer to another country based on the Dublin II Regulation may not be removed before the appeal is adjudicated. While in the United Kingdom he/she will be most probably promptly removed to the responsible state and the decision on his/her appeal will be made in absentia. to p. 2
2 from p. 1 Council of the European Union Regulation Dublin II In case an asylum seeker has a family member in one of the EU states, giving this information to the relevant institution is in his best interest. Hence the Iraqi who entered the EU via Poland while his wife and children were granted asylum in Holland should mention this in his asylum application or inform the Department of Dublin Proceedings in the Office for Foreigners. Based on this information Polish authorities may establish that Holland is the state responsible for examining the application of the Iraqi and he will be allowed to go there without the needless asylum process in Poland. If, however, the mentioned Iraqi has no relatives in Holland (or does not meet any other criteria justifying Holland s responsibility for examining his claim) and reaches this country after all on his own, he may be detained and sent back to Poland. The Dutch authorities will have no problems proving that the Iraqi has earlier applied for asylum in Poland, because his data can be found in the European database EURODAC which collects fingerprints of all asylum seekers above the age of 14. Member States are responsible for taking fingerprints of all third country nationals applying for protection no younger than 14 years old. It relates also to foreign nationals illegally entering or present in the territory of the European Union. The information collected this way is immediately fed into Eurodac, where the authorized persons may check if the foreigner has already applied for asylum or resided in another EU state. When the data is verified and like in our example the Dutch find our Iraqi in the database, there is a ground for sending him back to Poland in accordance with the Dublin II Regulation. It must be emphasized that states are not obliged to implement Dublin criteria and can always decide that they want to examine the given claim (Article 3(2)). Each state also has the right to bring together family members, as well as other dependent relatives on humanitarian grounds, based in particular on family or cultural considerations (Article 15). That is why, while lodging an asylum claim, it is worth providing all the circumstances which may facilitate the authorities of the Member State making decision on not transferring the applicant to another EU state. One chance rule Having regard to the abovementioned provisions it may be determined that the fact that Poland joined the Schengen zone does not mean its borders are open for everybody. The Dublin II Regulation limits significantly the possibility to move freely within the borders of the European Union for persons applying for asylum in Poland. Clear rules determining which state is responsible for examining the asylum claim are meant to make the asylum process fast and carried out by one expressly designated EU state. Before, when the regulations were not settled, Member States tended to push that responsibility away on any pretext, and it was not unheard of that an asylum seeker was stranded in the European Union for many years (so called refugees on orbit) because no state wanted to examine his asylum application. Dublin II Regulation s objective was also to eradicate a phenomenon called the asylum shopping. Multiple asylum applications have been lodged by one person at the same time or one after another in many European Union states. Often the only aim was to prolongate the process. Hence Dublin II Regulation introduced a rule that each third country national has the right to only one asylum process in one EU state. The Dublin system is not yet functioning effectively, though. In the Regulation has only been followed in less than 7 per cent of all lodged applications. Out of this number barely 2 per cent of transfers have practically been carried out. The effectiveness of the Regulation is growing each year but it is accompanied by the growing pressure put to the EU frontier states. They are the ones to receive the majority of the requests to take an asylum seeker back. Poland receives on average 50 such requests a week. Polish authorities on the other hand make only 20 requests a month to other Member States. The full text of the Dublin II Regulation (343/2003, ) in English is available at: europa.eu/lexuriserv/lexuriserv. do?uri=celex:32003r0343:en:not Under the Polish law the respective provisions are included in the Act on Granting Protection to Foreign Nationals in the Territory of the Republic of Poland (Dz. U. z 2006 r. Nr. 234, Poz ze zm.), Article. 41. Denmark: five months in the centre Zofia Stopa, Łukasz Kamiński Applying for refugee status To apply for refugee status in Denmark foreigners must first contact the Danish police and confirm their identity and citizenship. The Police must take fingerprints and record an official statement describing how the foreigner entered the territory of Denmark. The issues concerning the right of enter and stay in Denmark are dealt with by a Danish Immigration Office. It is responsible for considering the applications for refugee status or uniting families, issuing the permits for stay and work and issuing visas. Also, it decides on whether the application for refugee status is to be considered in Denmark or in another country of the European Union. It may also send the person seeking international protection to so-called safe third country (outside the EU). The Danish Immigration Office is responsible to the Ministry for Refugees, Immigration and Integration, which deals with implementing integration policy and granting citizenship. It considers appeals from decisions of the Immigration Office on applications for binding families together or issuing visas and permits for stay. The Immigration Office constitutes also an institution which issues permits for stay due to humanitarian reasons (e.g. due to a serious disease of an applicant). Applications for refugee status are considered within approx. 5 months. At this time those waiting for a decision are hosted in 51 refugee centres across the country, most of which are located in Copenhagen and Aalborg. Refugees can attend Danish language courses there. They are also provided with healthcare and amount of allowance which depends on their involvement in educational and vocational development actions. In the event that an application is negatively considered, an appeal from this decision is automatically directed to the Appeal Council for Refugees. Its decisions are final and cannot be changed by other instances. If the Council upholds a negative decision, for that person a date of an obligatory leave from Denmark is determined. Persons who decide to voluntary leave Denmark may be given police help and additional financial support. Those who do not leave Denmark voluntary will be deported by force. Right of stay Refugees whose applications were positively considered are given the right of stay in Denmark for a specified period of time, which, after 7 years, may be changed to the right of permanent residence (even after 3 years in exceptional circumstances). A permit for permanent residence is granted provided that the reasons for leaving their own country are current and refugees took action aimed at integrating e.g. they took part in integrational and vocational development programmes, completed the Danish language course and passed an appropriate exam, have a regular job, settled the debts towards the state and were not sentenced for committing felonies. The Immigration Office may cancel a foreigner s right of stay in Denmark if the grounds on which the document was issued become outdated and a safe return to the country of origin is possible. In such a case a refugee can apply for financial help to return home. The permanent residence permit may also be cancelled if it was given based on false information or if the name of that person is listed in the Schengen Information System as an undesirable other. A voluntary return to a country of origin or a decision to be taken under protection of third country may also be another reason. People who stay abroad for a long period of time (6 12 months depending on the residence permit) or pose a threat to national safety, public or health order, may also be deported. Uniting families If people who have a permanent residence right in Denmark comply with the requirements specified in the Act of Foreigners, they may bring a spouse or a life partner to the country, provided that each of them is above 24 years old. This right aims to prevent people from entering into marriage at a young age. Parents may bring their children to Denmark unless they were not 15 years of age at the time of submitting an application. Older children are given a permit for arrival in exceptional circumstances. To receive an approval of family uniting, an applicant must have appropriate living conditions and incomes. Members of a family must live in a common place, otherwise an approval for arrival to Denmark is cancelled. Integrational programme When a foreigner is granted refugee status, a proposal is made for him to take part in a special integrational programme. The schedule of such a programme is agreed on an individual basis with the authorities of the municipality in which a refugee lives. The officials sign with a foreigner an integrational contract that includes first three years of his stay in the country. The programme enables foreigners to take a 3-year Danish language course and other courses that aim at im-
3 proving the qualifications or beginning education. Along the qualifications and experiences gained during courses or in case of new expectations, a foreigner may propose altering the activities set out in the contract. Participation in the programme is not obligatory, however necessary, if a foreigner wants to receive a permanent residence card. An active participation in all the classes is also a precondition for receiving an integrational benefit. Children s education Children included in the application for refugee status have no access to a normal education in Denmark. On request of the government they are enabled to study on exactly the same principles as Danish children by the Red Cross in Denmark. At present the Red Cross runs 12 schools for children undergoing refugee procedure. However, children who stay in Denmark longer than 12 months, may, under some conditions, go to typical Danish schools (which are also financed by the Red Cross in Denmark). Children-refugees who do not speak Danish well enough can be placed in special reception classes or given help with learning the language. Also in the future, if necessary, they can count on extra courses in Danish. Bilingual children are entitled to additional courses organised in their native language, provided that there is enough children speaking that language in a given district area. Some statistics data Within the last years the number of applications for various forms of international protection in Denmark changed as follows: in applications, in applications, the first half of applications. In 2008 the largest amount of applications was submitted by citizens of: Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and the Russian Federation and in the first half of 2009 citizens of Afghanistan (442 applications), Iraq (184), Serbia (146), Iran (133), the Russian Federation (120), Syria (108), as well as Somalia, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Pakistan and Eritrea (data from UNHCR). More information at: United kingdom: up to five years on the island At the beginning of 2009 the United Kingdom hosted people under various forms of international protection, which gave it the 10th place in the United Nations Organization compiled statistics of asylum seekers and refugees hosting countries. Przemysław Sławiński In Great Britain, the Refugee Day is celebrated in every June fot. yhn.org.uk Asylum process United Kingdom is one of the signatory countries of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. According to its provisions the signatories are obliged to extend protection on their territories over foreign nationals who are fleeing persecutions in their own countries. If you are afraid to go back to your home country you can claim asylum in the UK. Your application will be considered by the UKBA (United Kingdom Border Agency). It should be lodged at the port of entry to the UK to an immigration officer. If you failed to do it, submit it as soon as possible after crossing the UK border to the nearest UKBA office. After applying for asylum you will be given an appointment with the immigration officer. You will be expected to attend a short interview during which your personal data and the way you entered the United Kingdom will have to be established. Your fingerprints and your photograph will be taken; the latter is needed for an application registration card (ARC), a document showing that you have made your application for asylum. You will also be notified how to contact a lawyer. The second meeting will be your asylum interview. You will be asked to explain your reasons for seeking asylum in the UK and to prove that upon returning to your own country you are in danger of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political beliefs. After the interview you have to Wait for the decision on your asylum application While you are waiting for your asylum application you may apply for support with housing or financial assistance, or both. If you have no place to stay, UKBA may place you in an asylum seekers center. There are 11 such centers in different parts of the UK. There are 31,000 people staying there at present. You will not be able to choose where you live but once you get a place anywhere, you can remain there until your asylum process ends. If you are granted a refugee status you will have 28 days to leave a center. If you are refused, you will have to leave in 3 weeks time. Financial assistance offered by the UK offers to the asylum seekers is not high. A weekly benefit given to a person above 25 years old is around 35 GBP. British authorities admit it is barely a half of the amount needed to survive, especially taking into account that as an asylum seeker you have no right to work (unless you have waited for longer than 12 months for an initial decision on your asylum application). Apart from cash support and accommodation you are also entitled to basic medical care that is a free visit to your GP and, in case of necessity, free hospitalization. Your children, on the other hand, are treated like little citizens of the UK. Among other things, if they are aged 5 to 16 they have to attend school. Decision If you succeed in being granted the refugee status you receive the right to remain in the UK for 5 years. After that you can apply for a permission to settle permanently in the UK. The basic condition is to prove that the danger in your home country still exists and to prove your knowledge of language and life in the UK. If you do not comply with the conditions set out in the 1951 Geneva Convention but UKBA decides that you may have the well grounded fear of death, death warrant, torture or other inhuman and degrading treatment in case of returning to your home country, you may be given humanitarian protection. This will give you the right to remain in the United Kingdom for 3 years. In some cases you may also be given a temporary permission to stay (discretionary leave to remain), which will allow you to remain in the UK for some time, no longer than 3 years. This type of permit may be granted to foreign nationals who can not be deported from the UK for certain reasons like family ties, severe illness or other reasons that are not covered by humanitarian protection. Discretionary leave to remain will also be granted to unaccompanied minors. If your asylum claim is rejected you can appeal to Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) against this decision. During the appeal any asylum support you receive will continue. After the final rejection, however, you have to voluntarily leave the UK or you may be detained and forcefully removed. Support organizations The most widely known NGO supporting asylum seekers in the UK is REFUGEE COUNCIL, which has offices in England, Wales and Scotland. It is dealing with majority of tasks regarding refugee situation from legal support, through housing support to political lobbying for improvement of immigrants situation. Statistics In 2008 around foreign nationals have applied for asylum in the UK, less than 4000 have been granted the refugee status. The other 2000 asylum seekers have been given the right to remain in the UK based on other grounds. The proportion of negative and positive decisions is constant for years. Majority of asylum seekers are nationals of Iran, Afghanistan, China, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, India, Iraq and Eritrea. 3
4 There are two main forms of alien protection in France: the refugee status based on the 1951 Geneva Convention and the subsidiary protection. The latter is granted to people who do not conform to the conditions set out in the Geneva Convention but would be in danger of the loss of life, personal freedom or security in case of a return to their home country. In case of being granted the refugee status in France a foreigner is being given a 10-year residence permit; if granted a subsidiary protection the residence permit for 3, 6 or 12 months. The decision on granting the proper form of protection is made by OFPRA (French Office for Protection of Refugees and the Displaced Persons) and the administrative proceedings in both cases are similar. Immediately upon arrival in France a foreigner should contact the nearest prefecture. He/she will be issued a temporary ID (APS Autorisation provisoire de séjour) valid for a month. He/ she will also be asked to fill a refugee status application. Necessary documents shall be compiled and an application submitted to OFPRA within a month. He/she then has to report back to the prefecture with the receipt to receive a 3-month residence permit, which will be extended every 3 months until the end of the proceedings. Foreigners who do not have resources to cover their upkeep in France and have already received their temporary ID may turn France: A red tape country Sadia Al Amin-Robein to asylum seeker centers CADA (Centre d accueil pour les demandeurs d asile). Those who do not have an ID can turn to CHU centers (Centres d hébergement d urgence), where they will be provided with accommodation and food. There are at present 271 CADA centers in France (compared to 73 in 2000), which can accommodate 20,000 foreigners at a time. Some are run by NGOs like France Terre d Asile or Forums des Réfugiés. Over a half of places in CADA centers is occupied at the moment by the citizens of the Russian Federation (mostly of Chechen nationality), Armenia, Serbia and Kosovo. The number of asylum seekers from DRC, Guinea, Sudan, Iraq, China, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Bangladesh is growing, too. CADAs, intended to accommodate asylum seekers, are different from CHRSs (Centres d hébergement et de réinsertion sociale), which are meant to assist foreigners granted a refugee status. While CADAs task is to provide accommodation, medical and administrative support, psychological assistance and education costs covering, CHRSs objective is to assist refugees (and others in danger of social exclusion) to achieve full integration with the French society. Officially, every foreigner on the French territory, regardless of their status, is entitled to free medical care. AME (Aide médicale de l Etat) is the public establishment responsible for covering the cost of medical treatment of people with no documented status. In practice however, it is very difficult for persons with no IDs to access medical care. Regarding NGOs more and more often it is being made more difficult. It happens, for instance, that health care employees inform against aliens who do not have a residence permit. Illegal sojourn on the territory of France is an offence penalized with a 1 year imprisonment and a fine of RUR 3,750. By virtue of the new 2007 law on the control of immigration, integration and asylum, the control of people trying to get into the territory of France in order to apply for a refugee status has been intensified. Aliens are being stopped on the borders in the so called zone d attente (transitional zones) and wait there for the provisional decision regarding their application for asylum (maximum waiting time is 20 days). Persons who have been refused both the refugee status and subsidiary protection and who did not leave France in time can be sent to detention centers (CRA). NGOs estimate that both in transitional zones and in detention centers human rights are being violated. CIMADE reports that important information is being given to foreigners in a language they do not understand, which results in them not being aware of their rights, hence not being able to execute them. ANAFE Association which helps foreigners on the borders, reports on bad conditions in transitional zones. Interrogations without a lawyer present happen, and minors can be treated like adults. Spain: High price paid for asylum Spaniards love lotteries. Before a local lottery office greedy for money people always stand in queue, waiting agog for the news. In similar queues stand the immigrants who try their luck and await their applications for refugee status to be successfully considered by the Spanish Asylum and Refugee Office (OAR). fot. M. Zdzieborska 4 Marta Zdzieborska Jean Calvind, Souad and Blanca were lucky. They were among the chosen ones who were provided with refugee status in Spain. In 2008 protection was granted to 151 persons, which amounted to only 5% of the people applying for refugee status. Meanwhile in Italy, a country with stricter immigration policy, protection was granted to 5,000 people. Those whom the Spanish authorities refused are deported. Most of them, however, decide on an illegal stay. They live in secret places without the rights to receive health and social care. The goal is to survive for 3 years. According to Spanish law it is possible to apply for a process of legalization of the stay. Unfortunately, some people never live to see this moment. It happens that illegal immigrants are caught by the police and deported to their homeland. That was the case for a husband of Mumbari, a young Cameroonian who gave birth to a child just a few days before her husband had been arrested. It was just two days after the arrest and he was on his way back to Cameroon. There was not enough time even to arrange for the help of a legal counselor. Mumbari was left alone with a child, without any means and chances to ever see her husband again. The Spanish administrative authorities have no mercy. Although the Act on asylum and subsidiary protection specifies the so-called right to unite families, i.e., to grant asylum for the closest relatives who had already received asylum (as indicated in Mumbari s case), this rule is rarely observed. It is very often that people who received refugee status in a different country wishing to join their families in Spain are denied access to the country. It leads to the breaking up of families. Due to this Luis, a refugee from Colombia, lost contact with his wife and children who received asylum in Canada. Now he is fighting to get a residence card in Spain for his second wife who is currently in Venezuela. He is afraid that her requests will be thwarted by the insensitive wall of bureaucracy and he will again be alone. Asylum received, but what s next? Jean Calvin has been seeking asylum for two years. He has walked on foot across half of Africa, from Cameroon to Ceuta a Spanish enclave on the territory of Morocco only to be able to apply for refugee status. In Cameroon he lived in the lap of luxury as a professor of Mathematics and Physics. Everything changed when people discovered his bisexual orientation. At first people started spreading gossip and point their fingers
5 at him, but finally the police took action against his evangelizing. Jean Calvin decided to escape. For the next two years he lived thanks to the savings and bribes that helped him to cross the borders. He was robbed a few times. When he eventually reached Ceuta, he just had to pay the last price for freedom (EUR 4,000.00), which the Moroccan mafia collected from desperate fugitives. Frequently, families have to go into debt to enable its members to escape to Spain Next, please! Many people, while trying to receive refugee status in Spain, thought they could really sigh with relief. Persecuted in their countries they believed in the chance to have a decent life. Meanwhile, the days pass but they bide their time and stand in queues to the offices, save every penny and count weeks when they can call their families again (1-2 times on average). Due to a poor economic climate in Spain most of them are unemployed. The difficulties in finding a job concern almost everybody. So what does a foreigner who speaks no good Spanish say? People who have no regular incomes are not able to pay their household bills and they end up being evicted. This refers especially to families with many children who are trying to get by every day. When Souad, a Kurd born in Syria, talks with people from the CEAR (Spanish Help Refugees Committee) she immediately starts to complain about the fact that she is fed up with waiting. She has lived in Spain for 4 years now. But she also has two children to provide for, her husband doesn t have a regular job. The four of them are on welfare (EUR a month), which is enough to pay for rent and two-weak supply of food. Squad dreams of going to Spain. Each time she asks for aid at the state offices, they treat her like an outcast. They don t understand that she s ill and can not work. She was trying to find a part-time job on-line, but without any success. I don t know what to do, she says. Many people face similar problems. After the 3 year welfare benefit given to any new refugee who comes to the country (help to find a house, food benefits) expires, they are cut off from any government help. The non governmental organisations, such as the CEAR, the ACCEM (Help for Immigrants Catholic Association) or the Red Cross which distribute means allocated by the state, can t help a lot. Obviously, they can give legal advice and information with job offers, but it doesn t entail any financial help, which is so needed at the moment. Once professor, now pot scrubber Many refugees enjoyed their affluent lifestyles back in their homelands. Orlando de Jesus was an owner of a huge strip of lands. Blanca ran two companies, Serafin worked in a bank and had a chemist s shop. Since arriving in the Iberian Peninsula, they have found themselves in a totally different situation. Previously, they had education, a good job and friends. At present they are yet another moro (from Spanish: Black) or sudaca (from Spanish: Latino) who want to take all the jobs away from the locals. A diploma granted by a reputable university means absolutely nothing here. Because of this, economists, doctors, lawyers with longtime experience gained in their countries have to work in Spain as check-out operators, cleaners or construction workers. Jose Luis, a Colombian, for many years a human rights activist, a lawyer by profession has been on the dole since last year. He would like to set up his own non-governmental organisation. For this purpose, he has already drafted the Articles of Association and found a bunch of enthusiasts wishing to help him. Yegana, an Azeri, has for many years taught people how to play the piano. Although music sounds the same everywhere, the directors of the music schools to whom she s sending her Curriculum Vitae seem to differ. Jean Calvin, the one who walked on foot around two years to receive his asylum, has another plan: he wants to write a book about his journey to Spain. The whole room is full of notes, as he says: So that others wouldn t make the same mistakes as I did. Germany: life is getting harder for refugees The number of people applying for refugee status in Germany is decreasing systematically. In 2009 the number of applications filed was lower by 30% compared to the previous year. Monika Klimkiewicz Germany has seen the greatest influx of refugees after the outbreak of war in Yugoslavia. At that time 900,000 applications for refugee status were filed. The incoming tide of refugees was frown upon by both the society and its political leaders. The surveys from 1992 have shown that over 74% of respondents were embracing the plans to amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany and to diminish the number of asylums being granted. The overarching issue for the government was to ensure the country s safety and not to express hospitality towards foreigners. This resulted in restrictions of citizen rights of the refugees and marginalization of the refugees themselves. In 1933 new, stricter laws and regulations for granting asylum were introduced and the number of refugees started declining. In 1995 the number of applications for asylum was as low as 150,000, in ,000, while last year it amounted only to 22,000. Refugees from the past Yugoslavia continue to be the most significant group, up to 70% of all immigrants, and also refugees from countries that are presently torn by conflicts, such as Chechnya, Iraq or Afghanistan. The following forms of protection are effective in Germany: political asylum (or so-called greater asylum ), the refugee status arising from the United Nations Convention on Refugees of 1951 (or so-called lesser asylum ), subsidiary protection and Duldung. The legal basis for granting the greater asylum is the Constitution, which states that people persecuted for political reasons are entitled to be granted asylum, while the lesser asylum is granted on the basis of the Act of Sojourn, which in accordance with the UN Convention states that a foreigner whose life or freedom is endangered due to his race, religion, nationality, social affiliation or political views, cannot be deported to another country. Applications for refugee status are reviewed by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Nuremberg. About 30% of all applications are not reviewed at all due to the regulations on third countries (The Dublin II Regulation). Within the last 10 years, only 13% of applicants were granted the greater or lesser asylum, while about 2% were subjected to subsidiary protection, which can be granted to people who do not meet the requirements for greater or lesser asylum, but, when returning to the countries of origin, they may be under the threat of death, inhumane or degrading treatment, torture or other forms of threat to life, health or personal freedom. If the applications are rejected, the foreigners do not have to leave Germany immediately. If they are unfit to travel, do not carry a passport of their country or the situation in their country makes repatriation impossible, they are granted so-called Duldung, which is a permit for tolerated stay until they are able to return to their countries. However, this situation can linger for years and that is how some foreign- ers, whose applications were rejected, can in time be granted the right of permanent residence in Germany. People who have been granted asylum are entitled to receive small financial aid and basic health care. In practice, refugees live in centres for asylum-seekers for years and the financial aid is much lower than it should be under the provisions of the German social law. Refugees at present are taking part in the refugee resettlement project, which allows stay permits to be granted to refugees approved by the UNHCR. Under this project, people who require special protection, such as victims of torture, single women or minors will be transported from the country where they were seeking asylum to a country that can guarantee them the right of permanent residence. On the basis of the decision by the UNHCR, Germany undertook to welcome 2,500 refugees from Iraq, mostly Christians, who until that time resided in other countries, such as Syria. More information available at: fot. AP Images,
6 supplement of georgia Georgian summer Within the last few months Poland saw a large influx of over 4,000 refugees from Georgia. Why are they coming exactly now? Jan Grabek fot. Lidia Ilona /wikicommons 6 The Polish Office for Foreigners had noted down little interest in Poland among Georgian citizens so far. Each month people applying for refugee status could be counted on the fingers of one hand. After half a year later when the conflict between Russia and Georgia occurred in 2008, nothing much was happening on the Polish borders. In the spring of 2009 the number of foreigners applying for refugee status has rapidly increased. The same year in the summer every day around 100 people crossed the border. Only in August, 1371 people applied for refugee status. The citizens of Georgia outnumbered Chechens who were the largest number of people submitting applications in Poland. In August a wave of immigrants started to go down as unexpectedly as it had gone up. At present Georgian citizens enter Poland once every few days. Such a sudden upsurge of Georgians coming to Poland is surprising. As Xatuna Goiladze-Żurkowska, a journalist who lives in Poland says: it s not in Georgians nature to travel, Georgians slowly put down the roots, as they so greatly grow attached to their own land. They are very reluctant to leave their homeland. Living abroad is just temporary. That is why they have no strong diaspora in the world, Xatuna commented on the situation of her country in the Polityka journal after last year s conflict. So what is the reason for the sudden interest in Poland in 2009? Although the Russian Georgian war has already ended the border zone seems to be dangerously still. People who escaped from their homes are afraid of returning to them. During the day Russian marksmen are policing the area, at night gangs of hooligans are prowling the neighbourhoods. Russians haven t stopped going into Georgia even up to 5 km deep, although the official order to end military operations was given, says Radek Polak, a photographer who works in Poland and Georgia. Internal foreigners in Georgia are also having a difficult situation. The government built housing estate for people who escaped from countries affected by the war; however, it does not offer them anything but a roof over their head. On the other hand, in Warsaw, where people have the best prospects of finding a job, unemployment is already huge. Inflation and reduced earnings create common frustrations among the people and situation in which they are susceptible to various rumours and myths about better life abroad. One such a rumour might have been the reason for the sudden upsurge of Georgian refugees coming to Poland. That was the conclusion of Dorota Parzymies and a specialist for immigration policy of the Ministry of the Interior and Administration who looked closely into the situation of Georgia in September It is said that highly exaggerated information on Polish guarantees for Georgians comers were spread. Some mentioned huge amounts of money granted to Georgians after they crossed the border and great prospects of jobs. Obviously, few people get acquainted with the Polish law before arriving, explains Dorota Przymies. Apparently the rumour arose during some funeral ceremony, where 500 mourners had gathered. After coming from Georgia, the representatives of the Ocalenie Foundation shared their knowledge on probable reasons for a new influx of Georgian to Poland with the Office for Foreigners and the Border Guard. Radosław Stryjewski called this step a salvation for the state institutions who work with refugees. Due to these relations between employees of institutions and refugees were improved. However, Georgians, in most cases can t count on receiving refugee status. According to the Geneva Convention of 1951, the refugee status is eligible for those people whom their own country cannot grant protection from persecutions. If a country is at war and its citizens can be given other forms of international protection (so called additional protection in Poland). Georgia is officially recognised as a safe country which is able to provide the safety of its citizens. Together with the help of local UN institutes that operate in the country it also deals with internal refugees. Therefore the probability of receiving refugee status or another form of international protection is small, which is proved in the statistics. From 4034 applications for refugee status 1227 of them have been already rejected, 2386 have been cancelled and on others a decision has not yet been made (data of ). Why Poland? Katarzyna Potoniec asked Georgians who applied for refugee status in Poland the reasons for their arrival here. Polish roots Adam has stayed in Poland for six months, waiting for his refugee status. As for a person with Georgian citizenship his surname sounds suspiciously Polish. As it turns out, he has the Polish roots. His ancestors arrived in Georgia from Kraków 120 years ago and they found a safe haven there. According to Adam, in Georgia his Polish citizenship is a big problem. Many people have told me to change my surname, he says. This change would be a ticket to a better job, no discrimination and generally speaking better life. Yet he decided otherwise, because, he claims there is nothing to be ashamed of. Adam is a double refugee. Once he had to leave everything. In 1993 he lost all his wealth when together with many Georgians he had to abandon Abkhazia. He spent his last 16 years in Tbilisi as a refugee. It was hard times for all his family. His country did not provide support for such people they were. The only help they could count on was 7 dollars monthly. Apart from financial problems, a lack of job and difficult living conditions there were also problems related to freedom of speech. In his opinion, people who decide to rebel against the authorities or express their opinion are sentenced to repression. If we had been fine there, then nobody would have left. Now everybody s thinking about it. I hope I ll stay in Poland. There are some news coming to us from home about the situation in Georgia which is getting worse, says Adam. In pursuit of freedom and bread We were the yazidi and we had to leave Georgia because of religious persecutions. (Yazidism a syncretic religious group believed mainly by Kurds, which combines elements of Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Indo-Iranian beliefs etc.). Also, the economic reasons were very important. There is no way to live normally there. There is no job and it s really hard to fulfill daily needs, says Nikolaz. His cousin, Dito, is a teacher. In Georgia he couldn t find any job because of his belief. They both came with their families to Poland four months ago. They think life in Poland is peaceful. They are surprised that hospital staff is addressing them kindly and that teachers of their children are helpful and nice. We re fine in Poland, they say unanimously. We got used to this place, we already understand the language. We d like to work and live here. Nikolaz and Dito think long-term. We re not young anymore, says Nikolaz. I m almost 40 years old. I don t want anything for myself. It s just important for me that my children could live, learn and develop peacefully, and that nobody would persecute them only because they have different belief. Here, our children have the future. Kids got used to the Polish school, they handle language well, says their relative, Tamar. I don t want to take my children to another country, to make them learn everything from the very beginning. Recently, they all three were denied refugee status. An appeal has been lodged and now they have to wait.
7 supplement of georgia Mutton and imperialism Giorgi, a student from Georgia, who s been living in Poland for 5 years, tells us about his life in Warsaw, Polish relations with Georgia and also its residents. Interview by Zofia Stopa. How did you come to live in Poland? I have wanted to leave Georgia since my early childhood. It wasn t about money, because we had enough food to eat. The mentality of Georgians was also OK. I just wished to experience a new reality. I thought about it all the time during my school days. Later, I took a job, and still tried to figure out how to leave, but to no avail. Finally, the moment arrived when I realised that it was time I did something with my life. I applied to a University and it worked. As for my arrival in Poland, I actually came here by pure accident. In Tbilisi, I was pursuing my studies in Theology. One day, we had a guest lecturer from Poland who was an Orthodox Metropolitan. He wanted to promote the co operation between Universities in Poland and Georgia. From him, I found out about the possibility of going on a student exchange, and together with my friend we decided to go abroad on a scholarship. Here in Poland, I have continued my Theology studies and later I took up another course in a second subject. What were the beginnings of your life in Poland like? The first thing that made quite an impression on me was a sex shop. We were coming from the train station by bus, it was dark, as we arrived there at 4 a.m. Then I saw a sex shop and felt a bit shocked. It dawned on me that I was in a totally different world. For the next two years I lived in the seminary on Paryska Street in Warsaw, where I was learning Polish. At first we communicated mainly in Russian, because we lived among an Orthodox community; chiefly people from eastern part of Poland, from Białystok and similar areas. They have been listening to the Old Church Slavonic language since their childhood. Also, they spoke a mixture of the Ukrainian, Belarusian and Polish languages. Outside the seminary we had to speak in English, because Poles did not look kindly on Russian-speaking people. But that was 5 years ago, it s changing now. After about a year, I became deeply depressed. It lasted for quite a long time. I did not like anything, but not due to difficulties caused by Polish people, but because of the deep frustration I felt. Help came from a few people I met, particularly those who shared a special bond with the culture of the East and had no feelings of inferiority to the West. Thanks to them I did not sense any cultural barrier. How did Poles perceive you on the streets, in shops, etc? The image of a Georgian guy is quite positive, for the most part. He is treated like a good but also a bit of a funny fellow. When I tell people that I come from Georgia, they laugh, but in a kind way. Usually, they mistakenly believe that a typical Georgian indulges in heavy drinking and eats large amounts of mutton. Although I find it very interesting, they are wrong. Mutton is mainly eaten by the highlanders. It seems to me that whenever Poles think of Georgia, they imagine a gigantic mutton steak. Georgians live to a ripe old age, just like the highlanders. They also eat healthy food, etc. When in a group of friends, we normally talked very loudly, which is our way of standing out in a crowd. Some Polish people liked it, some didn t. We were told off a few times by the Polish people on a bus. They said we didn t have to scream so much, as we were not sitting miles away from each other (laughs!). I guess Poles are rather favourably disposed towards us. It, of course, varies from one person to another. There are those who say that a Georgian is a Russian. But most of them look through the prism of power imposed by Soviets and their efforts to gain independence. Do Poles and Georgians share a common dislike for Russians? Yes, but we express our dislike for imperialism. I think both of our nations view Russia as an icon of imperialism. For the Georgian people, Poland was just another communist country, with a more favourable geography, that is, being closer to the West. It was a place that people flocked to buy jeans that could be sold back in their homeland. This image was changed by Saakashvili. Poland became an ally of Georgia. It looks like you Poles understand us. We call it a political attitude a brotherhood of Saakashvili and Kaczyński. In fact you can observe that pro Georgian attitude from Poles, especially after the Second World War. I get the impression that people in Warsaw talk a lot about Georgia. Many festivals are organised: Transkaukazja, Teraz Gruzja After World War II, Georgia was put in two different contexts: one showing the fight against Russia or the other displaying Georgia s rich cultural traditions, including khachapuri (a Georgian roasted cheese pie) and a wool coonskin cap. At festivals, the same things are shown all the time, each year the same people come to watch the concerts. I feel disappointed that Georgia is not invited to debates where more interesting political issues are discussed. In my opinion, no high-level talks about my country take place. The knowledge of Poles about Georgia is limited. They believe what they see or hear through the media or at festivals. People say that Kaczyński is Saakashvili s brother, sometimes they mention khachapuri, and of course Stalin as a key leader. Some Georgians have a negative attitude towards it. Saakashvili was first thought to be a very nice person, later people claimed he was a fool, because he was fighting Russia and nobody really knew what was going on in his mind. Our Kaczyński is also foolish, so they got along. In fact, Poles are learning about Georgia from the news. There, however, Georgia is on everybody s lips only when tanks drive into Tbilisi or Gori. What advice would you give to Georgians about their behavior in Poland? They definitely should be nice, because Poles are nice to Georgians. Based on personal experience, they will not find a better place to live than Poland. Even in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Baltic countries they are not received as well. In Poland, people are exceptionally well disposed towards Georgians, probably due to the ethos of fighting against Russia. Where can we meet Georgians in Warsaw? fot. Olga Mielnikiewicz There is a bar called Tbilisi on Puławska Street. I m told that due to the owners efforts, the bar serves as a hot-spot for Georgians, but I ve been there only once. I think religion is what binds Georgians together. The best place you can meet with Georgians is an Orthodox church in Praga and also a small chapel, whose patron is St. Grigol Peradze (a member of the Orthodox Church, a Georgian clergyman and theologian, born at the end of the 19 th century). There are a lot of Polish parishioners who, like the priest himself, very often go to Georgia. Usually, Georgians stay together. It seldom happens that a Georgian guy or girl lives alone here. They come to Poland mainly for work and treat it as a temporary situation. I know a woman who s been living in Poland for 7 years and she doesn t speak Polish. But she doesn t have to. She sells vodka at the stadium market in Warsaw and just says to customers: Would you like to buy some vodka, sir? Besides that, she has no contact with Poles. Do you get on well with Polish people? One man in Poland is like my second father. His is a rector of the seminary, a preacher. I can turn to him whenever I have a problem. I get on well with my peers, we go out for a pint sometimes. I stopped explaining our customs to them a long time ago. I used to do that, but it wasn t successful. I don t want to be a party pooper, that s not what I mean. But I really feel at home when I hang out, drink and talk with my friend from Georgia. Last week, I had a dream about all the drinking rituals back home. I really miss all the talks. In Poland, I really miss my people and my family. Since arriving in Poland, I ve travelled to Georgia only twice. Partly because it is far from here and also the travel costs are high. How does your stay look like from a legal perspective? I have an EU residence card. Getting all the papers is very important but it s also boring. You have 45 days to get your residence card. If you re late by even one day, you can t stay. You have to go to the Department of Foreigners of the Mazovian Voivodship Office (Wydział Spraw Cudzoziemców Mażowieckiego Urzędu Wojewódzkiego) on Długa Street. Then you stand in a queue, take a number and wait for the insurance to be issued. It s rather expensive; about PLN I guess it s like a visa, but thanks to it you can stay within the territory of the European Union. I have to get such a card and buy insurance every year. As a student I can find a legal job. In Poland, students who are under 26 years old don t have to get a work permit. But when you have only a EU card and you are over 26, then a work permit is a must. Students can quickly get NIP No. (Polish Tax Identification Number). After waiting about a month and a half you can start working. I receive about PLN from my scholarship and I also work. I used do it illegally, but now I ve found a legal job in a library. After living in Poland for 5 years, I can apply for a permanent residence card. And that s a step closer to getting citizenship. But I don t want to stay permanently in Poland. I actually don t feel like going to Georgia. Not yet. Of course, in the future, I would like to hit the road for a year, learn a new language and experience something new. Personal details of the interviewee have been changed.
8 supplement of georgia The ABC s a short look at the procedure of submitting an Refugee centres in Poland There are two types of refugee centres in Poland: reception centres and long-stay centres. Two reception centres are located in Podkowa Leśna Dębak nearby Warsaw and in Biała Podlaska. All refugees who applied for refugee status and the state protection, provided they did not manage to find a place to live, are sent to them. Foreigners who, following the provisional consideration of applications were given the social benefits, are consecutively transferred to receptional centres and other institutes where they are allowed to stay until the completion of the procedure. a week, each day a nurse is also at their disposal. Upon receiving an appropriate referral visits and specialist procedures are carried out at other healthcare centres. The centres cater for foreigners three meals a day. Dishes are prepared according to the religious orders. For example, Islam believers are served dishes without pork and products of pork origin. Meals can be eaten in canteens or rooms. Foreigners may also resign from them for a monetary equivalent and prepare meal by themselves by using the common kitchen. An application for refugee status has to be submitted by foreigners in person to the Director of the Office for Foreigners. Those foreigners not having the right to enter the territory of Poland can obtain it through the Chief of the border guard during immigration control. The third possibility is to apply through the Chief of the Border Guard who is responsible for the region of the capital city of Warsaw. The application includes minor children and a spouse of the foreigner if he agrees in writing. In fact, a spouse can also apply by themselves and then the whole procedure is carried out separately. Foreigners should complete the application form with their country of origin and the reason for justified fear from being persecuted. While submitting an application foreigners have to deposit their passports. In exchange they are given a Provisional Identity Certificate of the Alien (Tymczasowe Zaświadczenie Tożsamości Cudzoziemca TZTC), which entitles the foreigner to stay in Poland. The document is valid for 30 days. Its validity can be prolonged, provided the final decision is not made. In the event that the application form does not give the name and surname of the foreigner or information about the country of origin or a foreigner does not agree to fingerprinting (papillary lines) or taking photographs to complete the procedure, the application may be left without recognition. It should not, however, cause a problem and the foreigner can apply for refugee status again in the future. The centre for foreigners applying for refugee status In the event that foreigners applying for refugee status have no means to cover the expenses for their stay in Poland, they can ask for help at the centre for foreigners. For this purpose, they have to submit an application in which they confirm that they have no financial means to cover the cost of living. They also have to undergo medical and sanitary examination. Foreigners can stay at the centre during the procedure of granting refugee status and for the next 14 days after its completion. Foreigners who received refugee status or the permit for tolerated stay may spend another 3 months in the centre upon the procedure completion, provided an appropriate application is submitted. 8 The above centres do not differ much; they all offer the same living standards. More importantly, however, they function as open facilities. It means that foreigners can freely go in and out from the centres. They can also invite guests, but, for the safety reasons, guests are admitted to the centre only together with the registered housemates and only during the day. At nights the centres are closed. In every centre the same criteria are applied: families are placed in separate rooms or apartments (depending on the number of its members), on request relatives are given the same room. Women and men are accommodated in one room only if their belong to close family. Keys to the rooms are also given to them. Foreigners have to keep the rooms they live in clean. Toilets and lavatories are shared. People who live in the centres have access to medical care. A GP and a psychologist are on duty once or twice Foreigners have also possibility to use common laundry rooms. The minimum number of washing machines at each centre is just one for 50 people, but usually there are more of them. The sheets are changed every two weeks. At every centre the Polish language courses for children in nursery school, school age and adults are regularly organised. Everywhere occasional actions are taken, such as artistic and vocational courses, dance, drama and sport classes. In addition to this, at the centres are also libraries, sports fields, rooms for religious services, as well as television rooms. Also, kindergartens are run at about half of the centres (e.g. in Puste Łąki nearby Wyszków, Dębak or Linin). At present 20 refugee centres operate in Poland, including two reception centres. They currently accommodate 3143 foreigners, mostly from Chechnya and Georgia. Suzi Andreis
9 supplement of georgia for applicants application for refugee status in Poland Interrogation and taking of evidence before receiving status Before a decision in the first instance is made foreigners are interrogated in order to confirm that they are refugees (according to the definition specified in the Geneva Convention). Interrogation is carried out in the native language of the foreigner, very often with interpreters participation. Questions asked refer mainly to the reality of life in the country of origin, customs and the like. If the foreigner does not agree with the contents of the protocol, he can refuse to sign it. Once the interrogation is finished, an official must issue a copy of the protocol, provided that the foreigner expresses his request for it. Refugee status By receiving refugee status, a foreigner obtains a number of rights rights, such as: right for open ended stay, right to work, right to pursue a business activity, right to social benefits, right to health insurance, right to travel abroad and similar. However, there have not been so many people who, given the amount of applications, received their refugee status. According to the data of the Office for Foreigners in 2005, in about 3,000 of applications (including 7,000 persons), only 312 of them were granted refugee status. Complementary protection Complementary protection is granted to people who were denied refugee status, but, who, in case of returning to their country of origin, may actually be put at risk of being gravely harmed by: death penalty statement or execution, tortures, inhuman or humiliating treatment, serious and individualized threat to life or health resulting from common force used against civil people during a domestic or international military conflict. A foreigner granted a refugee status or complementary protection obtains a number of rights. The most important are given below: right to stay in Poland a refugee cannot be deported from Poland, except for exceptional circumstances which are set forth in Article 32 and 33 of the Rys. Beata Olszewska Geneva Convention. A foreigner who received refugee status is given a residence card for 3 years. Whereas a card of a person granted complementary protection is valid for 2 years; right to work a foreigner can work under the same regulations as a Polish citizen (no special permit for work is needed), right to pursue a business activity under the same regulations as a Polish citizen. right to social help services, to receive benefits, such as: a child benefit, an attendance allowance and maternity benefit, right to health insurance: a foreigner can voluntarily take out insurance at the National Health Fund or must choose insurance specified in a work contract, right to receive integration help, right to learn in primary, lower secondary, upper secondary schools (high schools, vocational schools), and persons who received refugee status can also study at universities, right to travel abroad persons who received refugee status are given a travel document, which is called a Geneva passport, persons who received refugee status can apply for Polish citizenship under more favourable conditions than other foreigners. Marzena Zera Are you being discriminated against? Have you come across a dishonest employer? Has a public official been unkind to you? Write to us! We will not solve all your problems but we will certainly try to help you or at least warn the others. Has anyone been particularly helpful to you? Have they behaved honorably? Do you wish to thank them? Write to us! We want to promote good practices! REFUGEE.pl Gazeta Uchodźców ul. Szpitalna 5/18, Warszawa Phone +48 (22) , Facsimile +48 (22) International organisations The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Al. Szucha 13/15, flat Warszawa Tel.: (022) International Organisation for Migration ul. Mariensztat Warszawa Tel.: (022) Social aid, advisory, information Polish Humanitarian Organisation Refugee Counselling Center ul. Szpitalna 5/ Warszawa Tel.: (022) Polish Migration Forum Foundation Ocalenie Foundation ul. Ordynacka 9/ Warszawa Tel.: (022) The Fu Shenfu Migrant Centre ul. Ostrobramska Warszawa Tel.: (022) Foundation of Education and Creativity ul. Św. Mikołaja Białystok Tel.: (085) Caritas Poland Center of Support for Migrants and Refugees Caritas of Lublin Archdiocese ul. Prymasa Stefana Wyszyńskiego Lublin; Tel. / Fax: (081) (ext. 310) Caritas of Zielonogóra and Gorzów Diocese ul. Wojska Polskiego Słubice Tel.: (095) Fax: (095) Caritas of Legnica Diocese ul. Domańskiego Zgorzelec Tel./ Fax: (075) Caritas of Białystok Archdiocese ul. Warszawska Białystok Tel. / Fax: (085) Caritas Center of Support for Migrants and Refugees ul. Warszawska Biała Podlaska Tel./ Fax: (083) Legal aid The Halina Nieć Legal Aid Centre ul. Krowoderska 11/ Kraków Tel.: (012) The Jagiellonian University Human Rights Centre Al. Zygmunta Krasińskiego Kraków Tel.: (012) The Polish Rule of Law Foundation ul. Chopina 14/ Lublin Tel: / Fax: (081) Tel: / Fax: (081) Association for Legal Intervention ul. Al. 3-go Maja 12 lok Warszawa Tel.: (022) Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights ul. Zgody Warszawa Tel.: (022) Faculty of Law and Administration Warsaw University Law Advice Centre ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/ Warszawa Tel. / Fax: (022) Tel.: (022) Organisations P r o v i d i n g a i d t o r e f u g e e s
10 supplement of georgia A Polish-Georgian Internet portal has been launched recently. It is intended as a place to make acquaintances, expand knowledge about both countries and as a meeting place for artists. A common place in the web about bringing both cultures together. Many Georgians are connected to Poland by family It s bonds, their ancestors have shed their blood for Poland many times, says Radek Polak, who has initiated the project together with Ocalenie Foundation. The GEO-PL community portal was created to bring Georgia closer to the Polish society and to help Georgian people living in Poland integrate with the locals. Type in your browser s address bar, wait for the site to load and you ve arrived. You ll see a white background and a face of a woman with rosy cheeks, sporting a distinctive hairdo decorated with bunch of grapes. Below is the registration form, fill it in: nationality (chose Polish or Georgian), name, address, nickname and password. Done! Next, click the Sign up! button, and you re ready to go inside. You ll land among a group of users. Here, you can get to know everyone who has registered before you. The community comprises 600 such people so far. If you find any familiar faces among them, you can add them to your friend list. That will help you to find them in the future and contact them as needed. You can also chat with strangers, such as Dominika from Gdynia or Georg from Tbilisi, and learn what they are doing. Should you find it appealing to get to know them and to do something together on social or cultural grounds, you can always write to their contact address. You can browse the users randomly, going through pages of faces, or use the search engine. Przemysław Sławiński, Jan Grabek When you re done adding friends, it s time to do some reading. First a short essay on the cultural bonds between the two countries posted by the authors of the website. Then you can reach for a guide to modern Georgia for Poles, and a guide to modern Poland for people from Georgia. They are not ordinary guides, though. You can find answers to important questions in them, for example: how should you behave when with a woman in Georgia, how in Poland, and who will pay for the dinner you just shared. There is also the art. reports tab a virtual art gallery. Here, you can admire the works of Polish and Georgian artists: Przemek Pokrycki s photos depicting rites of passage in the Polish society or a photo-report from Natela Grigalashvili s home village. Inspiring? Maybe there s something missing? You can post your own works in the users gallery. On the bottom of each page you will find an info-bar advertising the latest articles and essays. Today it s an interview with Sergi Gvarjaladze, one of the creators of Komuna.ge the Georgian web based art platform. If you re not in the mood for reading, you can always switch on the Georgian Komuna TV or listen to a Polish radio station e.g. Roxy FM. You prefer to have a chat? No problem. Go back to the users tab and run the chat app. - great fun. Just look at the photos - someone is giving a report from the GEO-PL promo concert in Warsaw. The portal has its technical issues. The software is being improved all the time and its authors are open for comments from the ever-growing population of users. We can celebrate success when we ll have a four-digit number of users, says Radek Polak. The portal is targeted mainly at young people, but there are some older users as well. They all share common enthusiasm on Georgia and Poland. GEO-PL is meant to act as a fly-wheel for various common cultural and social initiatives. With the former comprising photo projects that have already been executed thanks to the portal, such as the report on Georgian families in Poland and the latter being Radek Polak one of the initiators of the GEO-PL portal all the friendships established between the users. Anna Maria Dąbrowska registered to the portal to find people who will help her during her trip to Georgia. Others managed to do that already. Two users took advantage of help from David, a Georgian GEO-PL promoter, and spent holiday in his country. But David is not a sole promoter of the portal. Radek Polak together with the Ocalenie Foundation, the people behind the whole initiative, launched the GEO-PL advertising campaign. One of its points being the Tram to Tbilisi that could be seen on the streets of Warsaw on 20 October. Its aim was to bring Georgian culture closer to the citizens of the Polish capital. Everyone could get in, taste some Georgian snacks and listen to some music. Those who missed the tram could go to the bonding party in the Chłodna 25 club. Warsaw s acoustic music group CzessBand gave a concert there and works by Georgian photographers were exhibited. There were (and will be) many other promotional events as well. The portal was being advertised during the Teraz Gruzja (Georgia Now) festival between 11 and 12 December in the Skład Butelek club in Warsaw. Moreover, numerous promo posters could be seen in Warsaw on the city hall, Muranów cinema, and by all exit routes from the city. So much for Poland. In Georgia the campaign is just about to launch. GEO-PL will be advertised on the Internet, (on the websites of major newspapers). In the long run, the promotion will also comprise cultural events, including the Tbilisi Open Air festival in May. Poles and georgians two brothers 10 Łukasz Kamiński Polish-Georgian relations, although they never were intense, do go back to a tradition of a few centuries. The first relations (the documented ones) were established at the end of the 15 th century. Relations were maintained thanks to two important individuals: a monk named Korneli (a legate of the king of Kartlia), who sought the Polish dynasty s support against Turks posing a threat to Georgian duchies as well as a Polish burgher, Muratowicz, whose diary detailed his journey to the East and contained the first Polish descriptions of Georgia and its inhabitants. Until the 17 th century, Poles and Georgians shared common plans to reach a military agreement against Turkey. In 1691, missionaries (Jesuit priests) were invited to Georgia by the ruler at the time. In the 17 th century more Georgians arrived in Polish lands, serving in the army and in diplomatic functions. Both countries were closely aligned when the Russian- Turkish alliance posed a military threat to them. At the turn of the 18 th and 19 th century, Poland and Georgia lost their statehood, becoming a part of the Russian Empire. Georgians and Poles are known for their heroic battles and resistance against Russian aggression. Many historic literary descriptions of Polish politicians exiled during Romanticism and Positivism corroborate some passing references about Georgian allies who shared the same feat as the Polish representatives of the national liberation movement. Both nations took advantage of the situation in 1918 and regained their independence. However, its preservation was not easy due to the next attack from this time communist Russia. Poland and Georgia shared similar political situations and fought against the same adversary for centuries. Although Georgians in Poland and Poles in Georgia were never significant ethnic minorities, they marked their presence quite significantly.
11 supplement of georgia Poles in georgia in the 18 th and 19 th century The first Poles who arrived in Georgia at that time were the victimized participants of the Kościuszko Uprising (1794) and soldiers of the Napoleon s Campaigns who were forced into exile in the Caucasus. The biggest wave of Polish exiled politicians reached Georgia, right after the collapse of the Polish November and January Insurrection (1831 and 1864). In Orthodox Georgia, soldiers were ministered by Polish priests. Having the authorities consent, they arrived in Georgia to look after the spiritual lives of the growing number of Polish immigrants. Polish names appeared in the civil administration and officers corps of the Russian army in Georgia at the beginning of the 19 th century. In addition to exiled politicians, other Poles came to Georgia who were completing their military service and those who chose Georgia voluntarily as the place to pursue their public and military career. In the 30s and 40s of the 19 th century many Poles came to Georgia for economic reasons. Most of them were clerks, doctors, teachers, merchants and carpenters. After the ending of the Russian-Turkish war, Georgia experienced an economic growth. Polish specialists, construction and train engineers came. Most of them lived in Tbilisi, Batumi, Kutaisi and Akhaltshike. In 1840 in Georgia there were about 4,000 Poles, mainly soldiers, and at the end of the century there were over 8,000 of them. They played an important role in cultural-economic life of Georgia. To date, Polish names of scientists, engineers, artists, writers, such as Ludwik Młokosiewicz (a traveler, a biologist), Bolesław Statkowski (an engineer), Leon Janiszewski (a poet) or Zygmunt Waliszewski (a painter) are known there. Georgians in poland in 19 th century At the beginning of the 19 th century, when Georgia lost its state independence, Georgian military men, both officers and lance corporals forcefully drafted into the czar s troops, were sent to the Polish lands under Russian rule. In that period such people as a priest David Bebutov (a military commanding officer of Warsaw), a general and a priest Alexander Imeretinsky (a governor-general of Warsaw and a commanding officer of the troops of the Warsaw district) should be rated among the significant figures. Georgians, in the line of servitude for the Emperor, held numerous high public offices, and were favourably disposed to Poles. Also, Georgian merchants and industrialists arrived on Polish lands. At famous caucasian shops Georgians sold silk clothes, silver finished products, wines and brandies. At the end of the 19 th century, a Georgian, Micha Nakashidze, A Prince set up the first car producing company on Polish lands. In Poland, Georgian youth willingly pursued studies at that time. Most of the Social Democratic Georgian activists later studied at Polish universities; for example, Noe Zhordania, the president of the independent Republic of Georgia and Filip Makharadze a Soviet activist. The 20 th century poles in georgia At the brink of the First World War the Polish minority of Georgians were the largest numbers in its history (15,000 people). In Georgia many associations and Polish clubs were established at the time. The most important was Dom Polski. After Georgia declared its independence in 1918, in Tbilisi an official diplomatic representative took up his post. In 1921 the Republic of Poland officially recognised sovereignty of Georgia by signing a Peace Treaty thereby disapproving against the conquest of Poland made by the Soviets. As a result of the Sovietisation process carried out in Georgia, a great number of the Polish intelligentsia living there were imprisoned. Three years later in Georgia only a little more than 3,000 Poles lived there. At that time, the Parish of the Apostles St. Peter and Paul the Apostles Parish in Tbilisi was the hub of social life of the Polish diaspora. A rapid growth of Polish people took place after the breakout of the German-Soviet war in The number of the Polish diaspora at that time was estimated at 10,000 people. After the war a considerable amount of them went to Poland due to the repatriation agreement. Approximately 2,000 Poles lived in Georgia. As the citizens of U.S.S.R. they had to keep their origin secret, and their contacts with Polish culture were limited. Paradoxically, it was in the 60s that Polish literature was finally translated into Georgian. At that time Polish films were promoted and Georgian-Polish relations between scientists were also fostered. After the collapse of U.S.S.R., the gazette Ethnic Revival (Etniczne Odrodzenie) revealed that despite the half-century of Russian predominance Polish memory still lives on. This is proved by the four culture-education association and unions existing there and an official estimated data of Poles living in Georgia (about 5,000). To the Poles living in Georgia can be included the Professors of the Tbilisi University, Maria Filina and painters: Nina Kandelaki, Gelena Tulashvili-Młokosiewicz or Aleksiej Bałabujew-Czepowski. The last twenty years of history shows mutual relations of both countries. In the context of Russian threat, these relations are important for Poles and Georgians. Support from the President of the Republic of Poland Lech Kaczyński to Georgia given during the military conflict and pro-polish empathy among Georgians clearly depicts our good relations. The 20 th century georgians in poland After Georgia gained its independence in 1918, a Georgian-Polish club was established in Warsaw. In the first half of the 20 th century Georgians were an integral part of the Polish intellectual artist-social circles, liked by many, known for their well-mannered behaviours and sense of humour, they quickly fitted in. After the collapse of an independent Georgia in 1921 around 300 political and military activists immigrated to Poland. Thanks to the special resolution passed by Józef Piłsudski Georgian military men could be trained and serve in the Polish Army. Almost 100 Georgians graduated at that time from Polish military universities. The most famous were Zachari Bakaradze and Aleksandre Chkheidze (an infantry division commanding officer) and Lt. Col. Valiko Tewzadze (a commanding officer of a northern sector of Warsaw during the September campaign). Several of them were also commanding officers of the battle squadron air force and mine-laying division. Many fought in the ranks of the Polish army against the Soviets. Georgians operated also in the structures of the Polish Resistance Movement, at least 10 of them participated in the Warsaw Uprising Ludwik Młokosiewicz a Polish traveler and biologist 2. Zygmunt Waliszewski a Polish painter 3. Noe Zhordania the President of the independent Republic of Georgia in (according to Wikipedia) 4. Archimandrite Grigol Peradze the Saint of the Orthodox Church A symbolic figure was an archimandrite, (Grigol Peradze) a saint of the Orthodox Church, a preacher of the Georgian community in Poland and the rector of the History of Early Christian Literature Faculty at the University of Warsaw, who died in Auschwitz. During the war Georgians were very fiercely followed and victimized by the Red Army. After the war they had to live in secret under false names. When the thaw came in 1956, people started to organise cultural events more often, such as the days of Georgian culture. Also, some translations of the classic Georgian literature were instigated (e.g. The Knight in the Panther s Skin). In the 80s a lot of Georgian researchers underwent training at the Polish universities. The political changes at the turn of the 80s and 90s of the 20 th century sparked a revival among Georgians Polish citizens. In 1991 in Łódź the Georgian- Polish Association was created. Its organ, a yearbook called Pro Georgia has been published since In 1995 an early Georgian cultural work Conversion of Kartli was translated into Polish. It is estimated that at present in the territory of Poland live around 1 thousand Georgians: researchers, artists, workers. To the most famous Georgians in Poland belong Wiktor Domuchowski (a physicist), David Kolbaja (a political scientist) or Nanuli Burduli (a painter). Further information can be found in the following books: Wojciech Matereski, Gruzja, Warszawa 2000 Patrycja Prześlakiewicz, Kultura gruzińska o Polskości, kaukaz.net/cgi-bin/blosxom.cgi/ polish/gruzja/gruzja_art_polacy Andrzej Wodniak, Z badań nad polonią gruzińską drugiej połowy XIX wieku i początku XX wieku, Etnografia Polska, t. XL: 1996, z
12 supplement of georgia Polish are very hospitable Of course, Poles like to think of themselves as a hospitable and open nation. Hospitability is valued highly and rooted deeply in the Polish tradition. For example, when Polish families are preparing the Christmas Eve dinner, one additional plate must be placed on the table in case an unexpected, hungry guest should arrive. But that s just tradition. In practice, things look a bit different. A feeling of reservation is visible especially in cities. Strangers should never be addressed differently than Pan/Pani (Sir/Madam in Polish). There are, however, bright sides of this cold approach, one of the examples being the fact that it is increasingly easier to find a job by means of official recruitment procedures rather than connections. In the country, the feeling of reservation is smaller, people are more kind-hearted, but all potential conflicts are much fiercer. A bitter token of our hospitality are also all the protests against opening new refugee centres (or aimed against existing ones), which happened in Poland not once. Poles love to complain Hey, how are you? I m ok, but I could be much better, this is an example of a typical chat. While in Anglo- Saxon countries you would expect a positive, optimistic response, it s best to be prepared for ranting and moaning in Poland. It s certainly true that Poles love to complain: employers about high taxes, patients about long queues, office workers about hordes of customers. There are some universal subjects as well, matters that unite the society in a yammering choir: the weather, the condition of roads and last but not least politics. Complaining is almost considered courteous. However, at the same time we re not completely deprived of optimism and most of the complaining is summed up with the statement that we ll manage somehow anyway. No one but Poles lives in Poland Throughout the centuries Poland has been a melting pot of nationalities and a country open for new settlers. In the inter-war period ( ) foreigners constituted 30% of the population of the country. The composition of the Polish society at that time was more or less as follows: Ukrainians 14%, Jews 9%, Belarusians - 5%, Germans 2%. Due to the borders being moved to the west and to the mass repatriations following WWII, most of the minorities disappeared from the Polish land. The communist rule that lasted 50 years tried to change Poland into a monolithic and mono-cultural country. They did not succeed. Today, among the 38 million Polish citizens, ethnical and national minorities amount to 280,000 people. With Germans at the first place then Belorusians, Ukrainians, Romanians, Russians, Chechens and Lemkos. The German 12 Stereotypes about Poland Dawid Kornytowski As it is with all other countries, there are many different stereotypes and ideas concerning Poland. We have decided to present and validate them. Some of these myths carry an ounce of truth, but most of them are completely ajar with the facts. Here at Refugee.pl we comment on some of the myths that are most popular abroad. minority even has its own representative at the Seym (the lower chamber of the Polish Parliament). Actions and initiatives aimed at cultivating the memory of Poland s former cultural diversity are mushrooming all the time. Poles don t speak foreign languages The stereotypical Pole speaks no foreign languages whatsoever or can utter only a few sentences at best. This is a greatly unjust opinion. The percentage of people speaking at least one foreign language in Poland is close to the European average and amounts to 57%, while about 32% of Poles speak two languages. Russian is by far the most popular language, being mastered by 26% of the population, followed by English spoken by 17% of Poles and German by 14%. Everything is related to age. It was hard for people raised during the PRL period (the Polish People s Republic the official name of the country between 1952 and 1989, or in other words during the communist era) to learn foreign languages and travel abroad. Today, young people (aged 18 24) speak mostly English (54%), German (22%), and, a bit more seldom, Russian (13%). Among the older generation Russian is by far the most popular (26%), while English remains rather obscure (4%). Poland is a dangerous country Poland IS a safe country. People do not run around the streets with guns. The police are quite efficient and usually act as the ordinary person s ally not the enemy. This, of course, does not mean that you can safely go for a late night walk wherever you like. In bigger cities one can obviously run into hooligans and troublesome teens. Poles are still perceived rather unfavourably abroad. It is typical of foreigners to fear for their belongings while travelling to Poland. There is even this Polack joke: How do you know there are no Poles in Heaven Cause the Plough is still where it was parked. Poland is a Catholic country Catholic faith is Poland s main religion and accordingly it is worshipped by the largest number of believers approx. 35 m. However, it is important to understand that not every single Pole is a Catholic. Many consider themselves as atheists or are withdrawn from religious life. Moreover, there are many other variations of Christian faith besides Catholicism in Poland the Orthodox Church (approx. 540,000 worshippers), Protestant churches (approx. 250,000 worshipers), Polish-Catholic church (approx. 61,000 worshipers). Other religions are present in Poland as well Islam (5,000 worshipers), the reviving Judaism (approx. 1,200 worshipers), and other religious cults, usually of oriental descent (Islam, Hindu or Buddhist).
13 Since the beginning of November, up to the cancellation date of this rule, Polish refugee camps must reduce the number of visitors. The action taken aims to stave off the flu and has been made by the coordinator of the team who renders medical services for foreigners. To date, no cases of flu caused by the AH1N1 virus have been discovered so far. The specialists associated with the Sanitary and Epidemiological Station (Polish: Sanepid) also confirm that there is nothing to be afraid of. All foreigners applying for refugee status are first sent to reception centres in Podkowa Leśna Dębak and Biała Podlaska where an obligatory medical examination is carried out. During the flu season, the centres are on red alert against the possibility of a break-out; descriptions of the new AH1N1 virus are posted on noticeboards, many leaflets in Russian and Georgian are prepared. Other initiatives undertaken in refugee centres include subject-oriented conversations with housemates and various training sessions. Most importantly, however, is that a refugee living in the centre should know how to take care of his own health and his family s health. A handful of preventative tips on how to do so, are presented below: A few words about water and clean air The most favourable conditions for germs to spread are in big concentrations of people. That is why, in places such as refugee centres where usually over 200 people may live, it is a good idea to take A thousand and one recipe how to tackle the flu (but not only) Ilona Sójka Is limiting the number of visits into refugee centres the only possible way to protect Polish residents from the AH1N1 virus? precautions against the spread of diseases and to avoid unnecessary pain. It is advisable also to scald fruits and vegetables that are to be eaten raw or to carefully wipe all the dirt off shoes by using a rag soaked with disinfectant, both at the entrance to the building and to the shared kitchen. A chlorine-based disinfectant can be also useful in a shared toilet. When using it, please remember not to touch anything with your bare hands. Lift the toilet seat using a piece of paper towel and then discard it in the bin (not in the toilet bowl). Paper towels can also come in handy when pushing soap box or turning on the tap. Avoid sitting down on the toilet seat. But if you have to sit down, line the seat with toilet paper. You can also put some paper into the toilet bowl to avoid being splashed by the water. Frequent and thorough hand hygiene protects us from infections. Washing hands for 15 sec. destroys 99% of bacteria and germs. That is why, it is so important to wash them with soap and warm water, at the same time energetically rubbing one hand against the other. Please take note if you washed the places covered with rings. By the way, it is always worth trying to remember: do not smoke around children and non smoking people. Cigarette smoke is equally harmful to passive smokers and non-smokers can also come down with cancer, heart and lung diseases. Healthy practices Every housemate of the centre is provided with medical care, but it is advisable to have a personal medical kit equipped with lime, aspirin, febrifuge and natural medicines that help to boost the immunological system. Home ways of reducing fever and more If we are already running a fever, washing one s face, hands and feet with rosewater (pure or diluted) or with a solution of 1 2 mugs of water combined with droplets of oil or peppermint can bring us relief. We can dip our feet in hot water diluted with oils and also use them to sprinkle our pad. It is advisable to be on a light diet. Remember to drink tea made of peppermint, burdock, hibiscus, yarrow and elder. For a cough, use liqourice, basil, thyme and sage. Interestingly, for a sore throat it is really helpful to regularly gargle using warm water with soda and curcuma. We also advise humidifying air in rooms, to keep warm and to take proper rests. Clean hands safes life this is a slogan of the international campaign of UNICEF. In December 2009 over 200 million children from 86 countries and 5 continents took part in celebrations of the World Hand-Washing Day. Local schools ranging from Columbia to Bangladesh, from Kenya to Philippines, from Great Britain to Ethiopia prepared special events to promote hand-washing. 13
14 14 Welcome to Europe The Members of the European Union s Parliament honoured the film Welcome with the LUX award, for raising its voice in the debate on European integration. Did Europe notice the problem concerning illegal immigrants? Paulina Kość Philippe Lioret s film Welcome tells the story of the situation of migrants in France, it is a very up-to-date movie. The plot is weaved around Calais, a small town by the English Channel, where approximately 1500 illegal immigrants have made a stop on their way to United Kingdom. Director Philippe Lioret draws a parallel between the situation in modern France and that of the WWII period, when people who helped the Jews were facing the threat of harsh repercussions. Even though this comparison infuriated Eric Besson, the French Minister for Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Solidarity in September 2009 just six months following the premiere of the film, the French administration shut down the illegal refugee camp by the coast. Therefore one could ask, if the fact that Welcome received a prize from the Members of the European Union s Parliament should be taken as token of UE s more liberal migration policy in the future, or just as the proof that Welcome is, in fact, a good movie. Welcome follows the story of a seventeen-yearold Kurdish boy from Iraq, who walked to Calais after a 3-month travel. His only belongings were: a great deal of naivety and a photo of his beloved, who has been legitimately living in London with her family for the past few months. In the port of Calais, Bilai finds the English Channel to be a rather weighty obstacle on his way, but how could this be a problem for a man who has already managed to travel the distance of 2500 miles! It soon becomes obvious that there are much more dreamers akin to Bilai this town on the French coast is full of individuals who either wish to outsmart the frontier guard of the external to the Shengen-zone United Kingdom, or to cash in on those who try. Bilai soon loses the 500 he managed to borrow and is forced to face the truth that now he will never get through to Dover in a truck. A few months earlier, he was caught by some Turkish soldiers and left with a plastic bag over his head for eight days. This may be the only way to trick the oxygen detectors on the borders, but Bilai has already realized that he is unable to endure such an ordeal. Bilai decides that his only chance of reaching the other side of the Channel is to learn to swim. He takes lessons from Simon, a middle-aged French man who was recently left by his wife a social worker for an organization that helps immigrants. At first Simon tries to use the boy to attract his ex-wife s attention. However, soon enchanted by the boy s stubbornness, he starts to believe in Bilai s dream. The friendship between the two men is frowned upon by the neighbours, authorities and even people who seemingly should be supporting them. As a consequence, Simon s apartment is often raided by the police and the man himself gets fined and arrested continuously. As predictable as it may be for viewers familiar with the French reality, Philip s Lioret s reflection is undoubtedly a fine film. Its slow pace and weary soundtrack allow the film to perfectly fit among the works of the stereotypical French modern fatalistic cinema. Despite that, it remains a very touching picture, with many guests leaving the screening at the EU Parliament house with tears running down their faces. The Lux (Latin: light) award, has been given out for the third time. It was established in 2007 to promote European values and identity and by doing such, to mark the directions for new debates on European integration and cultural diversity The author of the film receives no prizes of monetary value except for a humble figurine, however his work will be translated into the 23 official languages of the European Union as well as into some additional languages (this part of the award was funded by the Goethe Institute). This will help the film to reach a broader audience, similarly to Fatih Akin s Auf der anderen Seite ( The Edge of Heaven ) the 2007 winner that has just been released on DVD with subtitles in 30 languages.
15 HOLLAND: The past kingdom of tolerance During the summer 2008 I went to Holland for voluntary work in a refugee camp in Markelo. Together with eleven volunteers I arrived in there with the mission to kill summertime boredom, which was driving local kids mad every year. For a month we lived, worked and experienced the life in that refugee camp. Dorota Głowacka The camps admitting refugees in Holland fall into two categories. The first category includes institutions willing to promote integration between refugees and society. The institutions accept foreigners whose applications for refugee status were positively considered by the immigration body. Here they can take intensive courses in Dutch, participate in a professional training and computer courses. The state helps them to become self-independent. The second category includes Repatriation Centres. One of them is Asielzoekercentrum in Markelo. These centres are very often the last resort for the people who were denied refugee status during the asylum procedure. The main task of the volunteers is preparing the foreigners for their trip to the homeland. The foreigners can count on a temporary accommodation, psychological help and a small amount of money to cover current expenses. However, the overriding purpose of these centres is to cajole the foreigners into leaving Holland. Thus, if there is a need to talk with a professional counselor, it is permitted only to learn how to find a job in the country a person comes from. Also, if there is a need to receive a bigger subsidy, it is granted only for the purpose of returning home. There are no language courses and integration programs provided. Very few are given a work permit, and only a limited period of time is permitted (max. 24 weeks per year). Then, however, they are obliged to cover the part of the costs of living in the centre, yet in practice they don t have enough for other expenses. To earn more on the side foreigners help by doing petty jobs (in the kindergarten, repairing bicycles, cleaning), which are paid in accordance with the agreed rate 50 cents per hour. In spite of all, asylum seekers don t give up hope and believe they will stay in Holland. A number of families live in the centre many years, putting off appeal procedures and keeping faith that all is not yet lost. And they are right. A record holder received her refugee status after 8-year stay in Markelo. One day of life in Markelo Foreigners are accommodated in 6-person bungalows, with 3 rooms and a shared kitchen. Although the bungalows look as if they were made of cardboard there are new electronic and household appliances inside. It clearly shows that families living in Holland help their relatives. However, those who don t have a cousin in Amsterdam or Utrecht have to cope with reality on their own, using money received from the state (around EUR a week). Markelo is a centre designed for 400 people, and there was enough space left to take in other refugees. Yet two years ago the centre was overcrowded. The situation changed after 2007 when a general amnesty was declared. It guaranteed asylum for all the foreigners who before 1 April 2001 submitted an application to the Immigration and Naturalisation Department and have been staying in Holland since then. The procedure didn t include everyone, though. People suspected of committing crimes against mankind or accused of terrorism and those who for other reasons could threaten the security of the state didn t have a chance to go through that procedure. What is the usual day in Markelo like? Children spend it having fun. They are lucky because they have to go to school. This way they quickly learn the language and discover a foreign culture. The adults however, can t wait till the end of the day. They usually don t know the Dutch language (there is no place for them to learn it) and only a few of them have a job. Markelo is a small town. Not many workplaces are to be found there. The nearest town, Deventer, is located 30 km far from Markelo. So to travel means spending a lot of money for a train ticket. Plenty of the young, single men are placed in the worst situation. They have computer room, canteen, youth community centre, football and basketball field at their disposal, but they usually moon around the centre all day frustrated by not doing anything useful. The boredom is disrupted only by parties, such as the birthday of 12-year old Kurd. All the people from the centre, regardless of the nationality, came to have fun. The volunteers also did. The girl s family lent us Kurds dresses. Music and Photo essay from Markelo by Dorota Głowacka is on the next page (p. 16). folk dances were presented and the tables were inundated with traditional dishes. Even today I recall it as the nicest moment of that summer. Asylum procedure A person who is applying for refugee status in Holland should submit an application for asylum to one of the Application Centres (AC) which presently are located in Rijsbergen, Zevenaar, Ter Apel and at the Schiphol airport, Amsterdam. There a decision may be made whether the person is to be qualified for the accelerated procedure. The accelerated proceeding lasts from 2 to 6 days. Those who were granted international protection are sent to integration institutes and those who were denied it are sent to repatriation centres. The foreigners who are not eligible for accelerated procedure and a decision upon their case during this process cannot be made are sent to temporary centres and stay there until further verification procedure is completed. Generally, asylum procedure should last not longer than 6 months. It is possible to appeal from a decision and then lodge an appeal with the court. An applicant has the right to stay in Holland while the appeal is considered. The highest Instance in the asylum procedure is the Council of State which exercise control over verdicts given by the court. Asylum in statistics Currently, Holland takes 7th place in the hierarchy of most popular countries with people applying for refugee status in the European Union. Foreigners come mainly from Afghanistan, China or Iran. The amount of the applications has been increasing for two years, from 7,000 in 2007 doubling to 14,000 in The indicator of positive decisions on granting the refugee status remains stable at around 3-4%. Other type of protection (subsidies, temporary protection) is placed at the level of 30% of refugees. Bloody Rita and the collapse of multiculturalism The rules of asylum policy of Holland have been tightened recently. An attitude of the Dutch people has also changed. Many of them sense that the open talk policy towards foreigners which has been carried out for years has not delivered satisfactory results. Social mood was reflected in the disintegration of the political scene. The populist anti-immigration parties were given a strong endorsement. In 2003 the office of the minister for Immigration and Integration was taken up by Rita Verdonk who quickly became famous for her non-compromising regulations towards foreigners applying refugee status (even children in the Markelo centre, whenever they wanted to scare someone, they used the words: Bloody Rita ). The murder of Theo Van Gogh, a director, in 2004 came as huge shock for public opinion. He was brutally killed in the city centre of Amsterdam by an Islam fundamentalist of Moroccan origin. It was done in retaliation for the controversial documentary entitled Submission which Van Gogh produced. According to the Islam people that film was an insult to their religious beliefs. Recently, Geert Wilders, a deputy and the leader of the populist, xenophobic Freedom Party has been making creating commotion in the Dutch news. During his interviews Wilders became infamous for likening Islam to Nazism and the sacred text of the Koran to Hitler s Mein Kampf. More frustrating are the polling results from 2009 which show that if an election were to be held in 2009, Wilder s party was the biggest group in the States-General (the Parliament of the Netherlands). The popularity of the party has been confirmed by the European Parliament election organised in June where the Freedom Party noted the highest support. Unfortunately, this signals danger. Once perceived as a role model of tolerance and the cradle of multiculturalism Holland now belongs to the past. More information in English on the procedure and conditions of how to receive asylum are available at: www. coa.nl or on the webpage of the Ministry of Justice: nl/currenttopics/brochures/. 15
16 The Little Refugees of Markelo Markelo Centre seemed to be inhabited solely by children. Omnipresent from dusk till dawn, always in a large group a racial and ethnical mix. They re smart, incredibly resourceful, tough and unwayward. They know how to nuzzle up using just their eyes. They continue to amaze you with every step they take and on top of that they re beautiful like angels, so you fall in love with them in minutes. The Jacek Hugo Bader The kids had much more at their disposal than the adults: a day care, school, music room. In the summer they had us a group of social workers that kept boredom away from them throughout the summer vacations. Games in the open air, theatre, art classes, clay modelling and baking. Just like on a summer camp, the only difference being that in the end it was the teachers who left for home. Dorota Głowacka Address of the editorial office: ul. Szpitalna 5/3, Warszawa Publisher: Polish Humanitarian Organisation Head of the editorial office: Hanka Nowicka Editorial team: Bogna Różyczka, Joanna Pietruszka, Marzena Zera Proofreading: Olga Almert-Piotrowska Authors: Dorota Głowacka, Zofia Stopa, Łukasz Kamiński, Przemysław Sławiński, Sadia Al Amin-Robein, Marta Zdzieborska, Monika Klimkiewicz, Jan Grabek, Katarzyna Potoniec, Suzi Andreis, Dawid Kornytowski, Ilona Sójka, Paulina Kość Illustrations: Beata Olszewska Graphic design: Teresa Oleszczuk Russian translation: Janina Surowiec English translation: Mariusz Dąbrowski, Karol Nawrocki, Anna Maria Sarmiento Not-signed photographs come from wikicommons. The project is co-financed from the capital city Warsaw budget. The project is co-financed from the European Refugee Fund and the state budget. The exclusive responsibility for all paragraphs or publications published in the paper rests with their authors. The European Commission shall not be responsible for the method in which the information made available is used. You are also invited to visit our portal devoted to refugees and migrants