International students trapped in Poland after fleeing Ukraine

They were studying information technology and management in Kharkov, Lutsk, and even Birazelkva … and now, after fleeing the war in Ukraine, they were trapped in a detention center for foreigners about 40 kilometers away from Warsaw. I am. This was revealed in a Radio France survey conducted on Wednesday, March 23. This survey was conducted in collaboration with several international media and with the support of NGO Lighthouse Reports.

>> At the border with Poland, “Ukrainian guards attacked us with a stick,” says an international student.

“I didn’t expect to find myself fleeing to Poland in this situation, as if I were a criminal.” Telephone testimony to Samuel (renamed), a student from Kharkov in northeastern Ukraine. A young Nigerian explains that he crossed the border with his student ID on February 27, after traveling to Kyiv and then to Lviv (near the Polish border). The passport remains at the university for administrative reasons. “But when I arrived in Poland, the border guard told me I couldn’t let me go because I don’t have a passport, and for this reason I had to be detained. . “ I remember someone who had a family in Germany and was trapped for more than three weeks.

On February 25, Michael Dworczyk, head of the Polish Prime Minister’s cabinet, nevertheless assured that: “Anyone who escapes the war, especially those who do not have a passport, will be welcomed in Poland.” “It’s hard not to see racism there”, Małgorzata Rycharska of NGO Hope & Humanity Poland said: “I don’t understand why these people were trapped.” The Kameroon embassy in Berlin, who was contacted, has so far identified three people in these closed centers and expressed surprise. Also, make sure that Cameroonian students have a valid ID.

In the center of Reshnovora, about 20 non-Ukrainians arriving from Ukraine are currently in detention, of which we have identified four students from Africa so far. From February 24th to March 15th, a total of 52 foreigners fled Ukraine and were sent to these closed centers, according to a letter from the Border Guard to Parliamentarian Tomasz Anisko.

A letter from the Polish Border Guard indicating that 52 non-Ukrainians who fled Ukraine were sent to the Foreign Center from February 24th to March 15th.  (French radio document)

The border guards contacted indicate that they cannot provide any further information for security reasons.As part of that, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) explains “Note the three Polish centers where third-country citizens arriving from Ukraine without proper travel documents are taken to confirm their identities.” However, it specifies not to include those of Reshnovora.

“We are students from Ukraine, we do not deserve to be here”, Samuel added that he does not know why migrants who illegally crossed the border with Belarus were in the center of the trap last year. Another Nigerian student, Gabriel (renamed), who was studying at the National Institute for Trade and Economics in Kharkov, said when he arrived in Poland. “The border guard forced us to take our phone.” In a telephone interview with a representative of the Diaspora in Nigeria obtained by Radio France, Gabriel said he was forced to seek international protection in Poland. “Otherwise, they said I would go to jail.” While waiting for the decision, he was sent to this closed camp and explained that he had been staying since the end of February. “Very bad situation”.

Gabriel (not his real name) was a student at the Institute of Trade and Economics in Kharkiv, Ukraine.  (French radio document)

Theoretically, if Polish law permits asylum in a very accurate situation (for example, if there is a risk of a person escaping during the procedure), it is allowed to be placed in a closed center. Practices are different. Warsaw was already selected by the United Nations for the systematic detention of migrants and refugees during the crisis at the Belarusian border last year. “Many people here are angry, I’m afraid, some have been here for nine months”, Scares Gabriel. No access to lawyers, camera-removed phone, only 20 minutes of internet access a day … Poland. “We were just students, He repeats. They should deport me and bring me back to Nigeria, but it can still take up to 6 months. “ He is worried.


Survey: Maud Jullien, Halima Salat Barre, Jack Sapoch, Daniel Howden, May Bulman, Nadine White, Steffen Lüdke, Hélène Bienvenu, Sarah Bakaloglou