The largest refugee center for Ukrainians in Poland has been suddenly closed by regional authorities, leading to the abrupt relocation of hundreds of people, according to a report by the Financial Times. Located in the village of Nadarzyn, in the Mazovia region near Warsaw, the facility had housed around 9,000 people at the peak of the Ukrainian refugee influx into Poland. However, by spring 2022, the number of occupants had dropped to approximately 300 as people were relocated to other facilities.
The regional authorities claim that the center was always meant to be temporary and that it was closed because the number of refugees from Ukraine arriving in Mazovia is now negligible. However, local charities and the residents themselves were caught by surprise. Many were not given a chance to pack their belongings, and were simply handed food in bags before being relocated. The closure was unexpected and sudden, leaving the residents with little time to prepare for their move.
Dagmara Zalewska, a spokesperson for the regional authorities, stated that the closure is part of a reorganization of the entire refugee assistance system on a national level. She added that many Ukrainians have since found work and residence in Poland or other EU nations, or have decided to return to Ukraine.
Poland has been a major destination for Ukrainians fleeing the conflict between Moscow and Kiev, with over 1.5 million registered Ukrainian refugees remaining in the country as of spring 2023, according to UN data. However, the situation has raised concerns among Polish authorities, leading them to tighten the rules for Ukrainian refugees. In March, they introduced a policy which allowed refugees to live in temporary accommodation for free for only 120 days from the moment they arrive in the country. After that, they were expected to cover 50% of their living costs, with a maximum of $9 per day. In May, these figures were raised to 75% and $13 respectively.
Furthermore, in March, Polish media outlets reported that officials planned to recover assistance funds that were improperly allocated to Ukrainian refugees, amounting to 2 million Polish zlotys ($450,000). However, the actual figure may have been even higher.
The closure of the largest refugee center for Ukrainians in Poland highlights the evolving situation for Ukrainian refugees in the country. As the number of arrivals has decreased, so too has the need for dedicated facilities. Additionally, the tightening of rules and the recovery of funds suggest a shift in policy towards providing support for refugees. It remains to be seen how these changes will impact the lives and futures of Ukrainian refugees seeking safety and stability in Poland.