Category: WP 1

Poland – Legal and Policy Framework of Migration Governance (a brief summary/few remarks)

By Monika Szulecka (Centre of Migration Research, University of Warsaw), Marta Pachocka (Centre of Migration Research, University of Warsaw) and Karolina Sobczak-Szelc (Centre of Migration Research, University of Warsaw)

The development of Poland’s migration and asylum policies and laws date back to 1989 when political and socio-economic transformations began. At this time, the whole region of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) experienced important changes, ranging from the collapse of the Soviet Union (USSR) and the establishment of new states and governments to the economic development and progressive integration of some post-communist states within Western Europe. The geopolitical changes in the region brought an ‘opening’ of borders in Poland. Waiving restrictions in passport policy contributed to increasing mobility both from and to Poland. Importantly, Poland as a country between the East and the West also became a transit country for economic migrants and asylum seekers. The attractiveness of Poland as a country of destination increased along with its accession to the European Union and joining the Schengen zone. And, the EU accession contributed significantly to the outflow of Polish nationals to the EU labour markets. At the same time, however, it also influenced the development of migration policies and laws, which became necessary not only to react to observed phenomena (a reactive policy characterised the 1990s in particular), but also to manage external migration to be the most profitable to the country and its economy while attracting desirable migrant workers to the Polish labour market.

The history of asylum seekers and refugees in Poland is strictly determined by the region of origin of foreigners seeking protection in Poland. For more than two decades, foreigners applying for a refugee status at the Polish-Belarusian border (usually at railway BCP in Brest/Terespol) have been mostly from the Caucasus region (formally Russian territory). The migration and refugee crisis experienced by Europe in 2015 and in the following years did not influence the demographics of arriving migrants and asylum seekers in Poland. These were rather conflicts or political and economic disturbances in countries to the east of Poland that shaped the demographics of asylum seekers and foreigners granted international protection. The consequences of the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ or problems encountered by countries in the Middle East were to some extent reflected in Poland’s experiences of admitting asylum seekers. One example is the very high rate of recognition of applications for international protection submitted by citizens of Syria. However, asylum proceedings linked to inflows from the Middle East did not dominate in terms of the overall administration of asylum applications submitted in Poland.

Since 2015, new intensive debates about possible solutions to the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ have prompted Polish policy-makers to introduce reforms to both international protection and immigration law. With arguments pointing to the need of avoiding problems with admitting asylum seekers and conflicts related to differences in culture and religion, the new Polish government of October 2015 has been refusing to implement both relocation and resettlement schemes proposed by the European Commission within the framework of the European Agenda on Migration (EAM) issued in May 2015. Instead, it emphasises the involvement of the Polish government in offering help in the regions of origin (and considers this kind of assistance to be the most effective solution). The government has also been working on legal amendments aimed at accelerating asylum proceedings in circumstances when there has been a potential misuse of asylum procedures, such as cases in which the foreigner’s intention was to get into Poland in order to enjoy the possibility of moving freely, although not always lawfully, to countries perceived as more attractive and more supportive for asylum seekers. The direction of proposed changes in law reflects the emphasis placed on internal state security, whereas the developments observed since late 2015 have raised concerns about respect for human rights, particularly in cases of arbitrarily denied or restricted access to asylum procedure and push-backs of potential applicants.

This text is based on the report entitled “Poland – Country Report: Legal and Policy Framework of Migration Governance” (M. Szulecka, M. Pachocka, K. Sobczak-Szelc, Global Migration: Consequences and Responses – Working Paper Series, 14 September 2018, p. 65–66) therefore in order to better understand the socio-economic, political, legal, institutional and policy context of migration governance in Poland, we encourage you to read our full publication which is available within the framework of RESPOND’s Working Paper Series Global Migration: Consequences and Responses. 

Introducing RESPOND’s Working Paper Series – Global Migration: Consequences and Responses

This Working Paper Series features the work of RESPOND researchers and is open to all scholars working on related topics.

The first set of papers analyze the socio-economic, political, legal and institutional context of migration governance in Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Poland, Sweden, Turkey, the UK and the European Union as a whole. The papers are an incredible resource for scholars applying a comparative legal framework or for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of migration policy in Europe.

Click this link to access the papers.

To submit a paper for consideration for inclusion in the series, send an e-mail to: or

The Atmosphere of Fear Taking its Toll in Hungary

By Daniel Gyollai (Glasgow Caledonian University) and Umut Korkut  (Glasgow Caledonian University) 

The Syrian-born Canadian author and refugee activist, Danny Ramadan has been reported to be physically and verbally insulted due to his assumed Roma ethnicity at Sziget Festival in Budapest on 16th August 2018. The news perhaps comes with a shock to the general audience of the Festival, that is widely known for its cultural openness, the tolerance and respect for national diversity above all else. The assault may, nonetheless, be less surprising for those who are familiar with the current socio-political atmosphere of Hungary. The Fidesz government’s firm anti-immigrant stance and “hate campaign” brought a landslide victory for the governing party at the April 2018 General Election. Since that election the propaganda seems to have become incorrigible as the legislative machinery further curtails the rights of asylum seekers, targets civil society organizations, and threatens to dissipate the voice of dissent against the government. The most recent legislation creates a new criminal offence (‘Facilitating Illegal Migration’) that provides for the imprisonment of individuals, who extend legal assistance or humanitarian support for those third country nationals seeking asylum in Hungary. Notwithstanding the protest of a plethora of civil society organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, the Hungarian Parliament adopted the so-called “Stop Soros” Bill and the Seventh Amendment to the Constitution on June 20, World Refugee Day.

While the government has sought the opinion of the Venice Commission on the draft proposal for the legislation, spectacularly in the end the government has passed the Bill without even waiting for that very opinion. The Venice Commission, however, approached the Hungarian authorities to withdraw the new Bill eventually as it establishes criminal liability for advocacy activities, threatening members of civil society organizations who provide lawful assistance to asylum seekers. In doing this, as per the opinion of the Venice Commission, the law not only constitutes a violation of the right to freedom of association and expression, but also criminalizes the initiation of an asylum procedure on behalf of migrants. Furthermore, an earlier draft proposal of the bill, submitted in February, included a 25% tax on foreign-funded civil society organizations. While this tax was later dropped from the draft Bill, the Finance Ministry was still outspoken to impose the special tax on civil society organizations whose activities involve “organising migration”. They have asked for the introduction of this tax as a separate piece of legislation. According to the Ministry, the tax is necessary as the fight against illegal migration puts an “extra financial burden” on the state.

There have been a series of amendments to the Hungarian Constitution some of which referred to the issue of migration. The most recent, the Seventh Amendment of the Fundamental Law went further than the previous one to ascertain that “no alien population would be settled in Hungary”, and it would be the responsibility of all public authorities to protect the “constitutional self-identity” and “Christian culture” of the state. As of now, it is unclear whether the EU is considering imposing sanctions of any sort against the new provisions of the Fundamental Law. According to its critics, however, the Amendment contradicts EU Law, and undermines human rights and the rule of law. Moreover, it provides that asylum seekers arriving at Hungary through the territory of a country “where they would not be exposed to persecution or a direct risk of persecution” shall not be entitled to receive asylum in Hungary. The Amendment further provides for the establishment of administrative courts. The new court system would fully substitute for the authority of regular courts in administrative cases, including asylum issues, and the President of the Administrative High Court shall be elected by the Parliament. This leaves the new court system to be monopolised by the government as it holds a two-thirds majority in the Parliament.

The EU has not been complicit with the developments in Hungary adversely affecting human rights of asylum seekers and the functioning of NGOs assisting asylum seekers. The most recent infringement procedure against Hungary by the European Commission is a response to the “Stop Soros” Bill and its incompatibility with the EU law, including the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. (N.B. further infringement procedures are ongoing against Hungary due to its non-compliance with, inter alia, the Asylum Procedures Directive, Return Directive and the Reception Conditions Directive.)

To make matters worse, those civil society organisations and activists who stand up for migrants’ rights are becoming increasingly under attack in Hungary. In June 2018, Hollik István MP, member of the governing coalition from KDNP Christian Democratic People Party, openly incited against Amnesty International right in front of its offices in Budapest. The politician marked the entrance with stickers, an action similar to when the Refugee Centre where the Jews lived during World War II was “signed” with a yellow star.

While at fieldwork in Southern Hungary in June 2018, we came across the impact of the fear and hatred campaign on everyday life. During our visit to Szeged, a county capital in Southeastern Hungary, we witnessed the complete oblivion of the locals of their proximity to the transit zone where asylum seekers are kept since September 2015 and the asylum seekers’ experience within. What is even more startling is that Szeged and the surrounding villages used to be at the forefront of the management of the 2015 refugee crisis, given its close proximity to the Western Balkan route across the Serbian border. During our visit many people expressed their relief that the city was no longer “occupied” by asylum seekers.

In conclusion, it looks as if despite the 2016 refugee quota referendum being inconclusive, the government has achieved its goal to foster a general feeling of fear among the public. While, on the one hand, the general public opinion on the European Union remains positive in Hungary, the anti-immigrant propaganda that has simultaneously bolstered anti-EU sentiments resulted in a victory for Fidesz, on the other. Witnessing these dual trajectories, we, therefore, raise the question, whether the conflicting attitudes towards EU policies are symptoms of the emergence of a new concept of Europeanisation that privileges the pursuit of certain conservative principles as opposed to those core liberal values the EU was founded upon and is to stand for.

Post-“Crisis” Austria: Recent Figures and Trends in Political Approaches to Asylum

By Ivan Josipovic (Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Ursula Reeger (Austrian Academy of Sciences).

Austria has a long tradition as a destination country for migrants and refugees. It is a country that for decades promoted labour migration and admitted refugees during the communist era of Eastern Europe as well as during the Balkan Wars. The notion of the latest advent of mass migration to Austria relates to the increasing number of asylum applications since 2013 and in particular in 2015. In that year alone, application numbers reached a six-decade high of 88,000 persons, while thousands of refugees crossed the country for their onward journey. This latest phase also displays novelties concerning the composition of the newcomers in terms of countries of origin. The three largest groups of asylum applicants in 2015, namely Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, are relatively new to Austria. In 2017, 102,000 persons born in one of these three countries were registered in Austria, compared to 16,000 in 2011.

Often referred to as a period of crisis, by 2018 Austria has doubtlessly left behind a general state of perceived overextension regarding the issues of refugee reception and integration. While a suggested normalization of course implies the problem of referring to an alleged norm, there are at least three alleviating circumstances that statistically support the argument of increased control over or at least the governability of forced migration and migrant integration.

First, the number of asylum applications is in continuing decline since November 2015, with 6,113 people having lodged an application from January to May 2018. In 2017 already, figures had dropped beneath the pre-crisis level of 2014 (see Figure 1). Border management facilities including fences, tents, and containers at Spielfeld, the major crossing point to Slovenia, are left empty. Early preparations for fencing the frontiers at the crossing point Nickelsdorf towards Hungary have been curbed as well. Screws and fencing material are held at disposition for a possible quick intervention (Picture 1).

Second, the number of asylum applicants in reception facilities has dropped beneath 60,000 persons by mid-2018, a figure that is expected to further decline with sinking asylum applications. In regions like Upper Austria, large-scale facilities are increasingly shut down and most regions attempt to foster individual accommodations. Likewise, the number of open applications at the Federal Office for Immigration and Asylum has halved from around 60,000 cases in March 2016 to 31,500 cases by January 2018.

Third, labour market integration of beneficiaries of asylum and subsidiary protection slightly surpasses early prognosis. The Austrian Labour Market Service reports that of those granted a title in 2015, 26.2 per cent had found an employment by October 2017, of those receiving their title in 2016 around 16.8 per cent had done so. Initial calculations had predicted that it would take five years to integrate half of the newly arrived into the labour market.

However, reducing the political crisis associated with increased migratory movements to mere quantities obscures the deep contradictions underlying contemporary statehood and migration governance in Europe. The balancing of the constitutionally enshrined right to asylum with an unresolved question of EU-wide distribution of refugees, or the reconciliation of integration policies with a highly regulated labour market and a selective welfare state are certainly two permanent struggles to be named. It is needless to say that due to the lack of consistent long term solutions, the topic remains a hotly politicized matter, promising for electoral gains if picked up and framed in accordance with needs and feelings of a certain audience.

Thus, while it remains to be investigated how and to which degree the increasingly restrictive political responses might have affected immigration, it has by now become evident that immigration has vice versa had a strong impact on Austrian politics. The right-wing FPÖ which has traditionally held an issue ownership on this topic as well as the conservatives of ÖVP succeeded at the 2017 parliamentary elections, breaking (once again) the Austrian traditional pattern of grand coalitions. At the level of regions, which have crucial competences regarding the reception of asylum seekers and social aid services, we are witnessing an increasing divergence regarding allowances and different concepts of accommodation. At the EU level, Austria displays an engagement in a disintegration process of a core European polity, namely Schengen, with the repeated renewal of exemption provisions for control and the creation of a border police unit. Given these changing circumstances, it remains to be seen how political dynamics in a multi-level governed migration system will develop in the future and how rationales of a second wave of policies will be translated and dispersed during the Austrian presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2018.

First Results: Politicization and a Complex, Fragmented Legal Milieu in RESPOND Countries

Photograph of a protest march organised in Florence in reaction to the murder of Idy Diene, a Senegalese citizen. March 5, 2018. Credit: Silvia D’Amato.

By Veronica Federico (University of Florence), Silvia D’Amato (University of Florence), Andrea Terlizzi (University of Florence) and Paola Pannia (University of Florence).

RESPOND’s first  Work Package (WP 1), led by the University of Florence is titled, “Legal and policy framework: sustainability and interaction.” It aims to gather background information about the socio-economic, political, legal and institutional context of migration governance in Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iraq, Italy, Lebanon, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and the UK, as well as at the level of the European Union. To fulfil the main objectives, the tasks are organised in terms of three principal streams of activities: (1) gathering and critically analysing information on the political, legal and institutional context of migration governance, and illustrating national cases through country reports; (2) comparing the national case-studies and discussing the outcome in a comparative report; and (3) retrieving and systematizing a number of indicators available in the most relevant databases in order to create an ad hoc dataset on socio-economic, cultural, political and legal indicators on migration governance covering all RESPOND countries. The “Collection of Country Reports”- Deliverable D1.2 was submitted to the European Commission in mid-June and will be made public on the RESPOND website and on each RESPOND partners’ webpage in early August. Continue reading