UN agency reports surge in asylum seekers as Poland joins Schengen Zone
Poland has witnessed a sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers in the latter part of this year, particularly Chechens and Ingush from Russia, owing to fears that the country’s accession to the European border-free zone today will lead to stricter controls, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“There are reports that smugglers have been intentionally spreading rumours among potential asylum seekers that their access to Polish territory would be hampered after 21 December, thus encouraging more people to go to Poland before today’s deadline,” UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler told reporters in Geneva.
In addition, “some asylum seekers erroneously hoped that, once in Poland, they would be able to move freely throughout the Schengen Zone,” he stated.
The agency reported that in the first 11 months of this year, there were 4,931 new applications for asylum in Poland, of which 3,555 – roughly 70 percent – were lodged after June.
While the monthly average of new applications during the first half of this year was 250, figures increased to 335 in July, reaching 1,148 in November.
The surge has led to overcrowding in Polish reception centres and forced the Government to increase the number of facilities to accommodate all the new arrivals, the agency said.