New Refugee Centre in Poland
The Office for Foreigners opened the refugee centre in a renovated, one-storey building which can accommodate around 200 people. The new centre is the so called reception centre where the foreigners will stay only temporary, and after accomplishing all the formalities that have to be met by people applying for the refugee status, they will be directed to other centres in Poland. The centre in Biała Podlaska is the second centre of this type after the one in Dębak, located in the suburbs of Warsaw, the capital of Poland.
The choice of the localization is not accidental. “We wanted to open the new centre as closely to the eastern border as possible. In the vicinity, there is a frontier crossing point situated in Terespol where the biggest number of the refugees apply for the refugee status,” explains Ms Ewa Piechota from the Office for Foreigners in Warsaw. “In the centre there are rooms that can accommodate three and eight people. Moreover, the centre is equipped with a new playing field, physician’s office, treatment room, day-room and TV room. Currently, the centre is on trial bases, if there appear first foreigners, they will be invited to the centre,” says Ms Ewa Piechota.
None of the inhabitants of Bielsko Biała opposed to the opening of the refugee centre. What is more, around 300 citizens of this city wanted to work in the centre. Volunteers were the first to offer the foreigners from Biała Podlaska their helping hand. Thanks to the campaign “Because I Was a Newcomer” Poles could learn about problems, culture and tradition of the people who come from all over the world. The information meeting together with the artistic part was organized by the Office for Foreigners and Lublin Volunteer Centre on Sunday that preceded the official opening of the new refugee centre. The Chechen kitchen and performance of the children’s band “Stars of Chechen ” conquered hearts of the inhabitants of Biała Podlaska. Dariusz Dakus who came to see the performance of the “Stars of Chechen” with his fourteen years old daughter Patrycja, says: “We have to help others to regain freedom just others used to help us”. Maria Panasiuk, a teacher on pension, says: “There has to be somewhere a refuge for people who suffered a lot of pain.”
Employees of the Office for Foreigners underline how important it is for them that the centre in Biała Podlaska is well accepted by the inhabitants of the city. “We should remember that the refugees are people who after crossing the border feel very lost and disoriented. They do not know the language and still they have to fend for themselves in a foreign country,” explains Ms Ewa Piechota. In the past, people were not always very willing to have refugees as their neighbours. For instance, two years ago, after objections on the part of the citizens, the Office for Foreigners withdrew from establishing the refugee centre in the military housing estate in Dęblin.
The centre in Biała Podlska is the nineteenth refugee centre in Poland. At present, there are in Poland over 6.000 people, mostly Chechens who apply for the refugee status and 4.309 of them live in these centres.
Source: Gazeta Wyborcza Lublin
Translation from Polish into English: Luiza Jasińska