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Launch of voluntary resettlement programme for Syrian refugees still uncertain

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has responded to the call by the HFHR and other non-governmental organisations in which the NGOs requested the development of a voluntary resettlement programme for refugees from Syria. “We are aware of the tremendous humanitarian needs resulting from the conflict in Syria, and financially speaking the Polish involvement is rather insignificant”, reads the Ministry’s response.

On the occasion of the World Refugee Day, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, the Polish Humanitarian Action and the Association for Legal Intervention have issued a statement calling for the establishment of a voluntary resettlement programme for Syrian refugees. The organisations asked about Poland’s involvement in aiding civilians who were forced to find refuge in other countries of the region (to find out more about the case, follow this link).

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs emphasised that Poland was politically committed in solving the military conflict in Syria and supported humanitarian aid in the region by providing financial support for non-governmental organisations (such as PAH) or international organisations (the UNHCR, among others).

“Still, we have not received any information on the launch and operation of a programme for the voluntary resettlement of Syrian refugees to Poland”, says Maciej Fagasiński, the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. “So far, Polish authorities have not expressed their willingness at all to participate in such a programme, as opposed to other countries of Central Europe”, Mr Fagasiński adds.

For instance, to-date Hungary has declared its readiness to accept 30 Syrians, while the Czech Republic has offered medical aid and treatment for the most vulnerable refugees as part of the humanitarian assistance initiative. Other countries such as Belarus, Lichtenstein and Luxembourg also want to join the programme.

“The response sent by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is consistent with the wider policy context of the Polish authorities approach to the voluntary resettlement of refugees. Even though the law on granting protection to foreigners in Poland has been amended so that the Government may set up voluntary resettlement programmes, no action has been taken so far”, says Maciej Fagasiński.

What is more, the draft National Programme for Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund, soon-to-be a key source of financing for refugee aid projects in Poland, does not provide any possibility of requesting funding for projects involving voluntary resettlement of refugees to Poland.

Nearly 2.5 million people left Syria because of the armed conflict devastating the country. The majority of refugees stays in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, where they have limited access to drinking water, food, medical care and education. According to assessments of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, in 2014 alone 36,000 refugees from Syria are in need of immediate resettlement, and this figure is set to increase to almost 100,000 by the end of 2016. So far more than 20 countries have offered help, expressing willingness to resettle more than 30,000 refugees.


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