Updated at 16:42,06-12-2016

USSR Citizens Still Live in Poland Illegally

There may be Belarusian citizens among them but former Soviet states take their time accepting "Soviet" people as their citizens.

People who arrived in Poland with Soviet passports have started trying to legalize themselves recently. Actually, they are citizens of a country that does not exist. None of the former Soviet republics expresses a desire to make them its citizens.

The coordinator of the legal advice office for emigrants and refugees of the Polish Helsinki Committee Agata Fores said it at a meeting with Belarusian, Ukrainian, Moldavian and Russian journalists.

Agata Fores: "People have started asking us for assistance. They only have Soviet passports. They arrived here with those passports at the beginning of the 1990s and stayed here. None of the Embassies can confirm that they received the citizenship of any of the former Soviet republics. It turns out that they are stateless persons now".

It is a big problem to decide what has to be done about them now. The thing is Poland has signed neither the UN Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons nor the Council of Europe Convention on the avoidance of statelessness so far. It turns out that a person has to become a citizen of some country before applying for the Polish citizenship. However, neither illegal inhabitants nor their potential countries of origin need it. Furthermore, sometimes a person can be a Belarusian who was born in Kiev and arrived in Poland from Moscow.

Agata Fores: "As a result, such people get permission for "tolerant residence". This is the only way out but it is not the best one. It makes it very difficult to get other residence permits and a passport. This is a kind of a Polish foreign passport for foreigners. People are allowed to stay in Poland but their rights are not clear".

By the way, the former Ukrainian Ambassador to Poland Alexander Motik has informed that Kiev and Warsaw have been discussing the possibility of signing an agreement about social protection of its citizens living on the territories of the two states since 2008. It is not clear if anything like that is being done by Minsk and Warsaw.

A Japanese citizen who spent almost 40 years as an illegal inhabitant of Poland was detained the other day. He studied for about 20 years and continued living in his new Motherland forgotten by all security agencies after the democratic changes. He taught Japanese to those who were interested in it for food and clothes. The issue of returning "the lost samurai" to his historical Motherland is being decided now.

However, the given examples are single instances that do not bother ordinary Poles. Furthermore, such people integrated into the Polish society long ago and even policemen think they belong there. The problem is getting a residence permit in Poland or the status of a refugee. According to the advisor of the Polish Minister of Internal Affairs Bogumil Rybak, 95% of the people who apply for the status of a refugee are Chechens. They make up 50% of applicants for temporary residence in the country.

Some Poles have already started frowning upon such neighbours. The main reason is trivial.

Agata Fores: "They do not work. I am speaking about refugees in the first place. They receive money here and the money could be allocated to Poles as state assistance because they may also be jobless and have many children. They do not receive social assistance the way refugees do. Many of those who see such refugees think so".

The fact that 17 out of the 19 centres for refugees are situated in small towns or villages in Eastern Poland adds oil to the fire. For example, there are centres near the Belarusian border – not far from Bialystok. According to the coordinator of the refugees integration programme of the Education and Creativity Fund Katarzyna Potoniec, 95% of the 700 people are Chechens and the others are Georgians. The attitude of Bialystok inhabitants to the forced neighbours differs.

Katarzyna Potoniec: "The stereotype that all Chechens are terrorists does not make them look decent. The attitude to them differs greatly: some people treat them normally, others do not care and still others have a very negative opinion about this neighbourhood. There were cases when Chechens got beaten and people threw stones at the flats they rented".

Seasonal workers from Ukraine and Belarus are more welcome in Bialystok District, confessed the director of the Department for Foreigners and Citizens’ Affaires Andrzej Golkowski. He says they have enough work and the number of problems with getting permission to work has reduced. The local population’s attitude to them is good.