Ukrainian refugees in Poland increasingly try to escape conscription

Poland is considering its options for managing the unprecedented number of Ukrainians it hosts who are striving to evade military service in their homeland.

Under Ukraine’s state of emergency, men aged 18-60, with certain exceptions, are prohibited from leaving the country—nor are those residing overseas permitted to remain there. In early April, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky enacted a law to reduce the mandatory military service age from 27 to 25, thereby increasing the pool of potential conscripts.

According to the EU Agency for Asylum (EUAA), an individual is eligible for international protection when they are „unable to return to their home country due to a risk of persecution or serious harm, and their country would not safeguard them. Persecution or serious harm includes threats to life, liberty, or physical safety.

There are two forms of international protection: refugee status and subsidiary protection. Refugee status is granted if the applicant would face persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political beliefs, or membership in a particular group upon returning to their country, and if their government would not protect them.

Subsidiary protection is granted if the applicant would face a significant risk due to conflict in their country or other serious harm, and if their government would not protect them. Forced conscription, which could result in death or injury, would fall under the latter.

Jakub Dudziak, spokesman for the Office for Foreigners, informed Rzeczpospolita that in the first three months of 2023, 351 Ukrainians submitted such applications, whereas in the same period this year, 1,149 applications were recorded. For comparison, in the entire year of 2023, just under 1,800 people applied, with 1,140 individuals granted international protection status.

Dudziak explains that very few Ukrainians are granted refugee status in Poland, as almost all Ukrainian citizens (99%) receive subsidiary protection. With the situation in Ukraine’s war effort deteriorating, including critical shortages in manpower, Poland anticipates a further increase in such applications.


Image: Unsplash

Author: Sébastien Meuwissen


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