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25 Oct, 2022 11:37

Poland to tighten Ukrainian refugee law

Warsaw wants to improve the way it tracks the movement of those eligible for benefits
Poland to tighten Ukrainian refugee law

Poland plans to make it harder for Ukrainian refugees to receive aid, as the government struggles with the financial burden. Millions of Ukrainians have fled to Poland after Russia launched its military operation in the neighboring state in February.

According to a draft amendment to the law on refugees, Ukrainians will have to obtain a national identification number (PESEL) and reside in Poland to receive financial aid, including monthly subsidies for families, the newspaper Dziennik Gazeta Prawna reported on Sunday.

The refugees will have 30 days to apply for a PESEL number and will lose their right to payment if they leave Poland for more than a month. The amendments will also provide tools for the authorities to better track movement across the border in order to prevent abuse of the welfare system.

Around 1.4 million Ukrainians have already received an identification number, but not everyone has applied for one, according to Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.

The Interior Ministry has proposed the introduction of a certificate that would allow Ukrainians to make short-term trips outside Poland without losing the access to welfare benefits.

Grzegorz Kubalski, the deputy director of the Union of Polish Counties (ZPP), said the proposed changes “make the situation orderly and eliminate barriers in the implementation of certain public services.” 

Polish Deputy Interior Minister Pawel Szefernaker said this month that Ukrainians staying in collective housing, including market halls, fire stations, and boarding houses, will have to cover half of their living expenses from January if they have stayed in places like this for more than 120 days.

According to Szefernaker, 80,000 Ukrainians receive this type of accommodation. “We can’t fund the stay of refugees indefinitely,” he said.

Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita reported on Sunday that the government is “overwhelmed” after spending a total of 5.5 billion zloty ($1.1 billion) on aid to Ukrainian refugees. 

The Polish Border Guard said in July that over 5.1 million people had crossed into the country from Ukraine since February. Around 1.2 million Ukrainian refugees are living in Poland now, according to Rzeczpospolita.