POLAND AND MIGRANTS – For a long time now, Poland finds itself in the sights of the European Union (together with Hungary) for its refusal to take its “quota” of “refugees”, who have been flooding Europe from the Middle East, Asia and Africa over the past two or three years in particular (some of whom are indeed refugees from war and persecution, but most are indeed what one calls the “economic migrants” – people from developing countries in search of a better life elsewhere).
In fact, far from a xenophobic fortress often portrayed in the Western media, Poland does been welcoming new arrivals – and plenty of them, as the table below demonstrates:
To be precise, almost 600,000 in 2016, second in the European Union after Great Britain, and ahead of Germany. Per capita, Poland has issued more residence permits to non-EU citizens than any other large country in the Union, and only behind Cyprus and Malta.
Who are all these people? Mostly Ukrainians and some Belorussians who come to Poland to work. Estimates of the legal and illegal presence in Poland of her eastern neighbours range from 1 to 2 million people. As France24 reports:
At least one million Ukrainians are currently working in Poland, according to estimates. The economy in Ukraine, still hampered by war and corruption, is sluggish, while across the border, there’s been uninterrupted growth and even a labour shortage – partly because so many Poles have moved further west. Ukrainian businesses, meanwhile, are finding it increasingly hard to hold on to their workers.
While there are always some inevitable incidents (what in the West would be called “hate crimes” or “anti-migrant incidents”, ranging from verbal abuse to violence), by and large this massive – and virtually unreported outside of Poland – migration has been a success story for Poland and for the Ukrainians, who fit in well, work hard, and clearly are not taking “Polish jobs”. Everywhere I went around Poland in September, I’ve heard two things: the Ukrainian language and complaints about worker shortages (just as everywhere I went around Europe, from rural Iceland to the cosmopolitan Hague, I’ve heard the Polish language).
It’s hard to blame Poland for wanting to have a say about who precisely comes into the country and why.