Polish authorities prepare for possible influx of Ukrainian refugees

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Polish regional governors have sent mayors of local authorities urgent requests for information on their ability to receive Ukrainian refugees in the event of war with Russia. The interior minister said it was among the “various scenarios” Poland is preparing for.

Last month, one of his deputy ministers announced that the authorities were preparing to take in up to a million Ukrainian refugees in the event of a Russian invasion. Speaking this morning, the government spokesman, however, declined to say how many refugees Poland was prepared to accept.

“I wouldn’t want to stir up negative emotions,” Piotr Müller told Polsat News. “Through the provincial governors, we are looking at exactly what the specific possibilities of the local authorities are and on that we will base our potential in terms of these movements that could arise from Ukraine.”

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These governors – government appointees who lead the administration in each of Poland’s sixteen provinces – asked the mayors of towns and villages under their authority to submit this information.

Konstanty Radziwiłł – the governor of the province of Mazovia, the largest in Poland in terms of area and population and which includes Warsaw – wrote last Wednesday an “urgent request to provide a list of buildings that could be used for potential housing strangers,” reports TVN24.

Radziwiłł asked mayors to prioritize sites that could be ready within 48 hours, but called for all potential buildings to be listed, including boarding schools, training centers, hostels, hotels, as well as sports and entertainment arenas.

These accommodations should have access to sanitation and catering facilities, he added. He also asked local authorities to provide information on companies offering transport services.

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Krzysztof Kosiński, the mayor of Ciechanów, a town in the province, confirmed that he had been contacted to request information on the number of refugees the town could accommodate as well as the costs and time involved.

Elbląg in the northeastern Polish province of Warmia-Masuria has immediate capacity for 420 people in four school sports halls, city authorities said yesterday. Its mayor has ordered that other educational facilities and communal housing be prepared as a potential accommodation base, Polsat News reports.

The mayor of nearby Olsztyn said the town had 60 places in a local hotel. The district authority’s office also has a list of institutions where the refugees could be accommodated, its press spokesman Wojciech Szalkewicz said.

“This list was produced as a result of the pandemic for isolation purposes [but] it still applies,” Szalkiewicz told Polsat News.

The governor of Małopolska also requested information from local authorities, reports Onet. Updating crisis management plans and procedures is standard practice, spokeswoman Joanna Paździo said, but security reasons prevented further specific comments.

Yesterday Interior Minister Mariusz Kamiński announced that Poland is “preparing for different scenarios related to the situation in Ukraine”.

“One of them,” he added, “are the actions of provincial governors regarding the potential influx of refugees from Ukraine, who may seek safe haven in our country following a possible conflict.

Poland already has a large Ukrainian community, estimated at over a million people (although numbers vary given the seasonal and temporary nature of some migrations), making them by far the largest group of immigrants. from the country.

Their numbers have increased dramatically in recent years following tensions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the armed conflict in the Donbass. This led the Polish government to call them refugees, although most came as economic migrants and only a tiny proportion sought or obtained asylum.

Separately, over the weekend, the US State Department announced that Poland had opened its border to Americans seeking to leave Ukraine amid Russia’s military buildup.

Main image credit: Jakub Orzechowski / Agencja Gazeta

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