Temporary protection of migrants for the first time in EU?

There are discussions within the EU related to the possible introduction of temporary protection for people fleeing the armed conflict in Ukraine. Let us explain briefly what it would consist in and what benefits there would be for foreigners to whom such protection would extend.

The idea of temporary protection was first introduced as early as in 2001 under Directive of the Council 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001 on rules for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and measures promoting a balance of efforts between EU countries associated with receiving such people and accepting the consequences of such an influx. As far as Polish law is concerned, this issue was addressed in Articles 106 to 118 of the act on extending protection to foreigners in Poland.

It is aimed at providing temporary protection to people arriving in Poland en masse who have left their country of origin or a specific geographic region due to a foreign invasion, war, civil war, ethnic conflicts, or gross infringements of human rights until such time as it may be possible for them to return to their original place of residence. The maximum period of such protection is 1 year with the option of it being extended by 6 months twice depending on the safety-related situation in the relevant country or geographic region.

The introduction and extent of temporary protection are always based on a decision of the Council of the European Union and its extent with the proviso that such a decision only defines minimum standards and it is up to particular countries, Poland included, to possibly extend the scope of such protection. In particular, it is possible to make temporary protection available to other displaced people than those defined in the relevant decisions of the Council of the European Union.

Temporary protection is awarded by means of a procedure which is simpler compared to the procedure associated with international protection. The Head of the Office for Foreigners issues a permission to stay in Poland and a residence card to a foreigner to whom temporary protection is awarded (for a year with possible extension not exceeding the period of temporary protection), as well as a visa (if one is necessary to enter Poland) and a Polish travel document if the foreigner does not have a passport. Foreigners under temporary protection are also granted access to medical care, board, and accommodation. Throughout the entire period of temporary protection foreigners may work in Poland legally without having to procure additional permits.

Under temporary protection it is also possible to relocate foreigners – who have to agree to this – to another EU country.

After the period of temporary protection has expired, the Head of the Office for Foreigners takes steps aimed at making it possible for foreigners to return to their country of origin or the geographic region from which they came to Poland.

NOTE! As of 28.02.2022, people under temporary protection in Poland may not – throughout the effective period of such protection – apply for temporary residence or long-term EU resident stay in Poland. The Council of the European Union has not made a decision on introducing temporary protection. Resorting to it will be a breakthrough moment as far as the development of the asylum law in the EU is concerned.