WARSAW, August 26, 2011 (AFP) â€“ European Union member Poland which is also part of the 25-state Schengen free travel zone on Friday granted amnesty to some of the estimated 50-70,000 illegal migrants believed to be living on its territory.
â€œWe want Poland to be an open, hospitable and friendly country for those who are looking for the opportunity of a better life here,â€ Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski told reporters after having signed the amnesty Friday.
Approved in parliament in late July, the amnesty law will come into force January 1, 2012 and migrants wishing to make use of its provisions have six months to register with Polish authorities.
The amnesty applies to foreign nationals residing in Poland illegally since at least December 20, 2007, as well as illegal migrants who were refused refugee status before January 1, 2010 but stayed on in Poland.
Citizens of neighboring non-EU Ukraine make up the majority of illegal migrants residing in Poland followed by Georgians, Chechens and Armenians as well as Vietnamese and persons hailing from the Middle East.
Those seeking amnesty will gain residence rights for two years, including the right to legal employment.
The new law also streamlines procedures for persons seeking refugee status in Poland.