Poland to cut benefits for most displaced citizens from neighboring country next month
Most Ukrainian refugees in Poland are able to earn a living, the government believes, so it intends to cut aid, an official said Monday. Four months of assistance is enough, said a senior politician from the ruling PiS party, quoted by the media.
Poland has taken in more than 3.5 million people fleeing Ukraine since the start of the Russian military operation in February. Warsaw offered a number of advantages, but now plans to reduce. Starting this month, refugees will no longer receive free tickets for public transport, and in July many of them will no longer receive a daily allowance (around $93 a day) for food and lodging.
The decision was announced Monday by Deputy Interior Minister Pawel Szefernaker in an interview with TVP Info. The official said the government will no longer pay Ukrainians who are able to support themselves. Exceptions will be made for people who have legitimate reasons not to find a job in Poland, such as people with disabilities, pregnant women or mothers who take care of several children.
He noted that the number of Ukrainian refugees in Poland had decreased since mid-May, when departures exceeded arrivals.
Ukrainians looking for jobs in Poland can and many have, a senior politician from the ruling PiS party told Rzeczpоspolita newspaper, commenting on the policy change. According to him, the government wants to push others to do the same. He said four months of assistance gives refugees enough time to adapt.
The newspaper has spoken to officials from several regions in Poland, and some are skeptical of the decision. Jan Golba, the mayor of Muszyna, a town in the south of the country, said the one-month deadline was unrealistic and called for aid to be extended by at least another month. Golba said his community is home to 400 Ukrainians, down from a peak of 1,300, and only 60 of them have found jobs.
“Anyone who wants to work will find a job. And the one who does not want, nothing will force him to do it “, said the mayor.
Piotr Dlugosz, a researcher from the Ukrainian community in Poland, told Rzeczpоspolita that the loss of benefits will not be a blow for most of them. More than 70% of refugees have their own livelihoods, he said, adding that he expects many aid recipients to simply return to Ukraine after it was cut off by the host countries – which would benefit Ukraine itself, he noted.
“If this young and dynamic group with high human capital does not return, it will be difficult for Ukrainians to create a strong and modern state”, said Dlugosz.
Warsaw had previously asked the EU to give it more money to cover the cost of helping refugees. Poland needs billions of euros, but the European Commission has offered 144.6 million euros, Szefernaker told Polish media last week.