A number of xenophobic and racist incidents occurred during the year. The NGOs Never Again and Open Republic reported a noticeable increase in the total number of hate crimes, pointing out that, although perpetrators mainly used hate speech in the past, during 2015 there were also violent attacks. On November 7, the National Prosecutor’s Office reported hate crimes investigated by the National Prosecutor’s office had risen 13 percent in the first six months of the year.
Prosecutors investigated 1,548 cases of hate crimes, including hate speech, in 2015, compared with 1,365 in 2014. Of these, 793 cases involved the internet, 160 cases were racist graffiti on walls or buildings, monuments and graves, 118 referred to making verbal threats to other persons, 86 cases were related to the use of violence against other persons, 44 involved bodily injury, 39 occurred at demonstrations or assemblies, 31 involved beating by more than one person, 29 involved sports fans or athletes, 25 involved offensive, harmful or embarrassing physical contact, 15 involved press and book publications, eight concerned television and radio programs, and two involved arson. Information on the remaining 198 hate crimes was unavailable.
On February 29, a Poznan local court sentenced two men to prison terms of three months and two years for beating a Syrian national in November 2015. On July 26, the court sentenced a third man to two years of community work for inciting the other two men to beat the Syrian. The court declared that the beating was a purely racist attack.
On June 23, Lodz prosecutors charged a 37-year-old man with racism, discrimination, and causing bodily harm to a 25-year old Algerian female student whom he verbally and physically attacked in the city of Lodz.
On September 8, a man physically attacked a university professor because he was speaking German while riding on a Warsaw tram. The attacker demanded the professor stop speaking German in his presence. When the professor refused, the man hit him in the face and fled the scene. On October 10, police arrested the suspected attacker and placed him in pretrial detention for three months.
Societal discrimination against Roma continued to be a problem. The 2011 national census recorded 16,723 Roma, although an official government report on the Romani community estimated that 20,000-25,000 Roma resided in the country. Romani community representatives estimated that 30,000-35,000 Roma resided in the country.
On April 21, unknown perpetrators destroyed a monument in memory of Roma shot by Nazis during World War II in Borzecin. The perpetrators split the wooden monument into pieces with an axe. By the end of September, no police investigation details were available.
In February, Czchow municipal authorities protested the resettlement of Romani community members after municipal authorities from neighboring Limanowa purchased and renovated property in Czchow to resettle three Romani families living in a dilapidated building in Limanowa. Czchow municipal authorities argued they had no experience or resources for integrating Roma, and the families remained in their Limanowa residence.
Romani leaders complained of widespread discrimination in employment, housing, banking, the justice system, the media, and education.
On January 25, a Romanian Romani group sued Poland in the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that the government violated the European Convention on Human Rights by dismantling their illegal settlement in Wroclaw in July 2015. Wroclaw city authorities destroyed the illegal settlement present in the city since 2009 without advance notification to the inhabitants who lost personal belongings when the buildings were destroyed. At year’s end, the case was pending before the court.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration, 2,360 Romani children between ages six and 16 attended school. During the year the government allocated 10 million zloty ($2.5 million) for programs to support Roma, including for educational programs. In addition the Ministry of Education allocated 700,000 zloty ($178,000) for school equipment for Romani children. The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration provided 540,000 zloty ($140,000) in school grants for Romani high school and university students, postgraduate studies on Romani culture and history in Krakow, and Romani-related cultural and religious events.
While at the national level approximately 80 percent of Roma were unemployed, levels of unemployment in some regions reached nearly 100 percent.
There were isolated incidents of racially motivated violence, including verbal and physical abuse, directed at persons of African, Asian, or Arab descent. On September 10, a man verbally attacked two Asian women on a metro train in Warsaw shouting, “Poland is only for Poles” and telling them to leave the country. Police detained the perpetrator.
The Ukrainian and Belarusian minorities continued to experience petty harassment and discrimination. On June 26, approximately 20 individuals tried to disrupt the religious procession of Greek Catholic and Orthodox Church members who were marching from the local cathedral to the military cemetery to commemorate the Ukrainian soldiers who fought for Poland in 1918-1920. On June 27, police charged nine persons with violating the right to public religious practices, which carries a punishment of up to two years’ imprisonment. On December 19, the Przemysl prosecutor’s office indicted 19 individuals for malicious disruption of a religious procession, which carries a possible penalty of up to three years’ imprisonment.
Extremist groups, while small in number, maintained a public presence in high-profile marches and on the internet, and disrupted lectures or debates on issues they opposed. Red Watch, a webpage run by the neo-Nazi group Blood and Honor, listed by name “traitors of the race,” politicians, activists, and representatives of left-wing organizations. The entries often included the home addresses and telephone numbers of the persons listed. Authorities stated they could not do anything, since the site’s servers were located outside the country.