Ukrainian refugees, in Krakow, Poland

Polish envoy rails Israel over response to Ukraine refugee crisis

Warsaw's top diplomat in Israel criticizes Jerusalem's lack of hospitality toward Ukrainian civilians fleeing war with Russia and calls to relax admission requirements

Itamar Eichner |
Published: 03.20.22, 20:50
The almost-month-old Russian invasion of Ukraine has sparked Europe's largest refugee crisis since World War Two, forcing over 3 million Ukrainians to flee the country while many other millions remain displaced within its borders.
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  • Ukraine's neighbors were flooded with helpless Ukrainian civilians who wish to distance themselves from the ongoing inferno. One of the countries to extend the warmest hospitality is Poland.
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    פליטים אוקראינים בקרקוב, פולין
    פליטים אוקראינים בקרקוב, פולין
    Ukrainian refugees, in Krakow, Poland
    (Photo: Reuters)
    But while the Polish people welcome refugees with open arms, Israel's strict approach toward Ukrainian asylum seekers is garnering some harsh criticism in the Eastern European country.
    "It shouldn't be just Poland and Ukraine's neighboring countries who shoulder the burden. We feel the burden has to be shared more fairly. Other countries need to accept more refugees and redouble their efforts, especially those who belong to the Western world and their economies are in good shape," Poland's chargé d'affaires in Israel, Agata Czaplińska, told Ynet in an interview Sunday.
    Warsaw's top diplomat in Israel called on Jerusalem to soften its refugee policy as fighting in Ukraine unfolds.
    "Admission requirements should be laxer. Some people have been forced to flee their homes, and may have friends or family in Israel, and have no chance of finding another place. We are aware of cases of Ukrainian refugees being denied entry to Israel from Poland and were sent back," she said.
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    פליטים מאוקראינה בפולין
    פליטים מאוקראינה בפולין
    A shelter for Ukrainian refugees at a school gym, in Przemyśl, Poland
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "People in Poland have decided to take refugees into their homes and to encourage them to do so the government has allotted payments to households that agree to take in refugees to their homes to reimburse them for the expenses.
    This is the only way to host refugees. They have people they can trust. These are tens of thousands of Poles who have opened their homes, if not more. Support for Ukraine is staggering in Poland. According to a public opinion poll conducted in Poland, 92% of Poles support the reception of Ukrainian refugees in Poland while 70% are willing to take refugees in their homes."
    Czaplińska also said that the Polish government has promoted legislation that would allow Ukrainian refugees to better integrate into Polish society and bolster the local economy.
    "We estimate that 60%-70% of Ukrainian refugees will stay in Poland instead of going to other countries. Some went on to Western Europe, but the majority plan to stay in Poland. Even before the war, we had a million Ukrainian immigrants working in all sectors — doctors, nurses, teachers, high-tech and construction," she said.
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    פליטים מאוקראינה בתחנת הרכבת של ורשה
    פליטים מאוקראינה בתחנת הרכבת של ורשה
    Ukrainian refugees sleep on the floor in Warsaw's central train station
    (Photo: Reuters)
    "This is one of the reasons they choose to stay in Poland because they know they are welcome and have a lot of friends here. It also helps the Polish economy thrive."
    However, Czaplińska noted that Poland's solidarity with the Ukrainian people does not solely stem from pure economic interest.
    "There is a growing understanding that our moral duty is to accept them and offer them what we can. There is understanding and solidarity with people who have lost everything," she said.
    "Poland sees the threat emerging from the east. We have noticed the Russian aggression in Crimea and the Donbas. It is not surprising that we are showing solidarity with the Ukrainian nation. Our prime minister along with the prime ministers of Slovakia and the Czech Republic traveled to Kyiv last week. We show solidarity on many fronts."
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