Queue mongers. Who cashes in on international protection seekers in Poland?

What's happening on Taborowa Street in Warsaw?

What's happening on Taborowa Street in Warsaw? / @rubanau_collage

At 7:20 a.m., the area near the Foreigners' Office on Taborowa Street in Warsaw is already crowded. Forty people are at the fence. They came early to get in line and apply for international protection in Poland.

But not everyone will get to the coveted windows today. And it's not that the office can't accommodate 40 people in one day. As the opening gets closer, the queue jumpers carefully push them away from the door and put their clients in their place. Those who won't move voluntarily will be moved by force.  

"Look, why don't we pay them too?"

Not far from the office gates, a woman stands with a folder in her hands. Around her are 7-8 people—her clients. Closer to the gate is another woman, also with a folder, and next to her is an imposing-looking man. They're with clients, too.

"Oh, the same as yesterday - a guy and a girl from the queue are talking to each other. - Listen, maybe we should pay them so we don't have to spend 100 hours here. I wonder how much it costs".

"Have you seen them here before?"

"Yes, every time we come here, they're always here. They've been here since this morning, those two women for sure".

"And the man?"

"Yes, he was here yesterday arguing with someone".

Sellers line up every night on Taborowa. They have to argue with those who want to avoid seeing dozens of customers in line instead of one person. In case of tough negotiations, the vendors have a man with a stun gun. He's right there, flicking it periodically as he walks back and forth.  

Free services for $3,000. You can pay in installments

Under the guise of seeking international protection in Poland, we approach one of the women and ask how things work here.

Продавцы очереди. Бизнес на тех, кто подаётся на международную защиту в Польше
Queue spot sellers / photo by Alesia

The next day, the girl was much more serious. She immediately took a place near the gate, and when the "sellers" tried to push her away, she caused a scandal.

'I raised my voice, questioning the fairness of the situation. Why should several individuals be allowed to take the place of a single 'vendor'? The people in line echoed my sentiments, and together, we managed to prevent the 'extra' people from cutting the line.' 


Just consultants, nothing personal 

Alesia says the people who make money from the line have already formed several groups.

"I saw a woman with two strong men and another woman with a man. They work like this: the woman takes a spot, and the men, if there is trouble, either push people away or stand in front of the gate and push the crowd away. One of them goes around with a stun gun. He kept it on all the time to show it was working. But I didn't hear him use it."

Продавцы очереди. Бизнес на тех, кто подаётся на международную защиту в Польше
Another queue place seller / photo by Alesia

"I am referring only to professional lawyers. In the above case, the services are most likely not provided by lawyers but simply by Polish-speaking people. Their price per hour cannot be the same as that of a lawyer and, according to the laws of the market and logic, should be many times lower.

When people come to me for help, I try to convince them that they can handle an international defence case independently. So, I would recommend that you seek free help first. However, suppose you realise you cannot do it alone and are willing to pay for it. In that case, you should contact specialists with a Polish legal education, preferably a license to practice law or a license to practice as a legal advisor insured against damages and obliged to observe high ethical standards.

It's essential to thoroughly research and compare the prices of different companies offering legal services. I also recommend choosing companies that specialize in international protection, as this is a niche area in the Polish market.

Why the queue problem has worsened recently?

Large queues in Warsaw are due to Ukrainian citizens' increased interest in international protection. According to the Polish Department for Foreigners, in the first quarter of 2024, Ukrainians filed the largest number of applications for international protection—about 1.2 thousand.

However, the citizens of Belarus were just a little behind. They submitted about 1 thousand applications.

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