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The Warsaw Voice » Politics » June 30, 2011
Politics & Society
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Times of Change
June 30, 2011   
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Rafał Rogala, head of the Office for Foreigners, talks to Witold Żygulski.

The Office for Foreigners has just turned 10. What has the last decade been like for you?
The years between 2001 and 2011 were marked by legislative, structural and system changes linked with Poland joining the EU in 2004 and the Schengen Area in 2007. Those two events were major challenges for the new office as a result of many foreigners coming to Poland to seek asylum, first in 2004 and then in 2007 and 2008. The main challenge today is to expand the system under which foreigners’ residency in Poland is legalized, amid growing economic migration.

How did the work of the Office for Foreigners change after Poland joined the EU and the Schengen Area?
The Office for Foreigners before 2004 and the office after that year are really two completely different institutions. To begin with, we had to change our philosophy and procedures when prior to entering the EU we adopted the EU acquis [the accumulated legislation and court decisions that constitute the body of European Union law], including new legislation from 2003 on foreigners and granting asylum to foreigners in Poland. Then, in conjunction with joining the Schengen Area, the head of the Office for Foreigners assumed an important role as coordinator and consultant in the process of issuing visas and other residency-related documents. These two events shaped what the Office for Foreigners is today and determined its further development.

What challenges face the Office for Foreigners in the coming years?
The most important thing is to introduce Poland’s migration strategy, which is being developed at the moment. The strategy specifies the directions for Polish policy on foreigners and as a result, it alters the position of the Office for Foreigners considerably, consolidating certain powers. The strategy will be connected with the adoption of a new law on foreigners and a number of technical solutions which, in a nutshell, should make life easier for foreigners in Poland.
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