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Poland is hosting thousands of Chechen refugees seeking asylum in Western Europe. Following two wars and continuing violence and insecurity, thousands of Chechens thinking they no longer had a future in their own land have fled their country. At the start of November 2005, over 3500 people were held in 16 separate camps in Poland.
When asylum seekers cross the borders of the European Union via Poland, they are registered and sent to transit camps where they wait to receive refugee status. Only eight per cent of the Chechen asylum seekers actually receive this status, whilst many others obtain a temporary status to reside in Poland. According to the ‘Dublin 2’ rule, the first country of entry into the European Union must decide whether to give refugee status to an asylum seeker. If asylum seekers who entered the EU via Poland make their way to another EU country, they are sent back to Poland. However, for many Chechen refugees, Poland is only a transit point to go west, and not a host country. Many never intended to live in Poland and feel is still too close to home to feel safe.
Worn down by 10 years of violence and repeated trauma, the asylum seekers are unable to find the conditions necessary for their recovery. Intake records show that forty per cent of patients coming in for consultation suffer from post-traumatic stress and experience recurring memories, nightmares and sleep problems. In the transit centers the Polish authorities provide shelter, food, medical care and social support, whilst MSF provides psychological care.
MSF began providing psychological support in August 2005 in seven transit camps, and now works in all 16 transit camps in Warsaw, Bialystok and Lublin. Psychologists provide individual consultations to help asylum seekers deal with trauma that has been building up over the past decade. Between August 2005 and April 2006, MSF carried out a total of 1336 individual consultations for 425 patients.
MSF began working in Poland in 2005.