Polish Police Human Rights Advisor Visits Ukraine to Share Experience in Combating Discrimination and Xenophobia

Human Rights Advisor to the Commander-in-Chief of the Polish Police Krzystof Laszkiewicz, coordinator of the network of the human rights advisors of the Polish Police, held a series of the advocacy events in Kyiv and Lviv, aimed to enhance the dialogue between law enforcement and minority communities for better intercultural understanding and interagency cooperation upon IOM’s invitation. Mr. Laszkiewicz met with the Senior Management of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine(MOI), representatives of the Main Administration of the MOI in Lviv region and members of the Diversity Initiative network, a voluntary intersectoral cooperation platform, striving to uphold the human dignity and well-being of migrants, refugees and visible minorities in Ukraine.

The Polish expert gave an extensive presentation on the reforms his country had to undergo after the fall of the Berlin Wall, when Poland started its democratic path of development, straight through EU accession. “Nowadays, the Polish Police is among the three most trusted national institutions in the country according to public opinion polls, but the situation wasn’t always like this”, said Mr. Laszkiewicz. Poland’s ethnically and religiously homogenous society and Soviet legacy hampered swift police reform. Thanks to the unyielding pressure from the Polish civil society and assistance from EU Member States, the Polish Government managed to introduce large-scale reforms to combat biased attitude and discrimination among police officers and law enforcement agencies.

The implementation of the EU acquis concerning race, ethnic origin, religion, age, disability and sexual orientation was initiated as part and parcel of the EU approximation process. “Ukraine will have to follow Poland’s footsteps, since, regardless of the political situation, the country is striving for its European future”, added the Polish official. He encouraged the NGO representatives to keep up the pressure on state authorities to develop new forms of cooperation and dialogue between the public administration and NGOs.

Mr. Laszkiewicz also provided a comprehensive summary of the police recruitment and training system established in Poland. After the law enforcement officials all went through lustration in the 90s, major changes were introduced into the staff recruitment system to prevent any discrimination, human rights violations and corruption. A system of human rights officers was created at the local level in every region, a new curriculum was introduced in the police training schools and an Anti-discrimination guide for police officers was developed. According to Mr. Laszkiewicz, the most successful training programmes for police called Living Library  engage minority community representatives or hate crime survivors, bringing them in direct contact with trainees to share their personal experience and views, “as the situation in Poland is quite complex regarding the discrimination of particular groups”.

Mr. Laszkiewicz himself initiated The Police Platform against Hatred, a forum where representatives of all interested government and public agencies can meet and openly discuss their concerns and challenges they face in combating discrimination. As a response to the increasing number of foreigners coming to Poland, the Ministry of the Interior organized an information campaign titled, "Racism. Say it to Fight it" (www.reportracism.pl/en/). The campaign is designed to monitor and follow up on cases related to hate crimes and to prevent such incidents.

“Understanding hate crimes and raising awareness of discrimination, developing an effective system of prevention and response require greater efforts of the government and civil society, persistence and a one-step-at-a-time approach in Ukraine, so when the time to enter the EU comes, the country and its institutions are well prepared”, stressed the guest expert.

Manifestations of xenophobia:

Since 2007 Diversity Initiative network documents reports about cases of suspected violence and vandalism on the ground of hatred. Verified and standardized data and other information about hate crimes is collected and circulated in the annual reports of the network. The monitoring is based on the OSCE term and indicators of the hate crimes and is verified at least with two sources.

Altogether for the period 2007 -2014, 242 cases of violence were documented with 332 victims.

For eight months 20014 the following cases of documented:

  • 25 cases of suspected violence on the ground of hatred with over 26 victims (exact data are to be verified). Victims of the attacks were migrants from Chad. Egypt, Pakistan, Uganda, Somali, Sudan, Ethiopia and also citizens of Ukraine of Jewish, Crimean-Tatar and Roma origin. The main targets of violence were migrants of African origin.

Manifestations of violence occurred in the following seven cities: Kyiv (10), Odesa (4), Simferopol (3), Bila Tserkva (3), Slovyansk (2), Korosten (1) and Pereyaslav-Khmelnytskyi (1).

  • 19 cases of vandalism, primary targeting Jewish (14) and Crimean-Tatar objects (4).

Manifestations of vandalism occurred in the following 16 cities and villages of Ukraine: Simferopol (2), Sevastopol (1), Mykolaiv (1), Kremenchug (1), Pyatydni village(1) and Volodymyr-Volynskyi town(1) (Volyn region), Bila Tserkva (1), Poltava (1), Oleksandria (1) and Novomoskovska (2) (Dnipropetrovsk region), Zaporizhzhia (1), Chygyryn (Cherkasy region), Generalske and Rybachye village(Crimea), Khmelnytskyi (1), Odesa (1).

The Diversity Initiative (DI) (http://diversipedia.org.ua/) was set up in 2007 in response to a sharp rise in the number of racially motivated attacks in Ukraine. Co-chaired by the International Organization for Migration and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, DI now has 65 members from various spheres who work together to combat racism and xenophobia and promote cultural diversity in Ukraine.