Poland’s interior ministry on February 26 announced controversial plans for children living at refugee centres to start attending classes at the centres rather than attend local public schools, which is the case today.

The government says this would be beneficial for all students because “some foreign children do not learn despite attending school because they have educational gaps compared to their Polish peer and so struggle to catch up with school material”.

Critics, however, warn it will create educational ghettos. The government has also been accused of stoking popular hostility towards foreigners for electoral gains ahead of local elections this year, and a general election next year.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, the plan is consistent with policies outlined by the conservative ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), which has refused to accept a quota of refugees relocated from other European Union countries despite pressure from Brussels.

In response to the criticism, the interior ministry said its proposal would be amended. Its aim: “is not to exclude the children of foreigners… but only to provide support during the preparatory phase of education before children enter school.”

Of the 1,450 refugees living at shelters in Poland, more than half (890) are children, according to Jakub Dudziak, the spokesman for Poland’s Office for Foreigners.