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24th Feb 2024

Polish ministers seek British assurances for diaspora

  • Poles are now the largest minority in the UK. (Photo: Ben Sutherland)

Three Polish ministers are travelling to London on Monday (5 September) to seek reassurances regarding the safety of their citizens in the UK - including their right to stay once Britain leaves the EU.

Prime minister Beata Szydlo dispatched Witold Waszczykowski, Zbigniew Ziobro and Mariusz Blaszczak - ministers of foreign affairs, justice and interior - for a last-minute trip after two Polish men were attacked in the town of Harlow in Essex on Sunday.

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Another Polish emigre, Arkadiusz Jozwik, was killed in the town a week earlier. Six teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of beating him to death.

Sunday’s attack came only 12 hours after a vigil for Jozwik gathered hundreds of mourners.

Superintendent Trevor Roe of the Essex police said the two attacks were not linked.

He told the BBC the police considered the weekend attack as a potential hate crime and announced an increased number of visible policing patrols in Harlow to both reassure and protect the community.

Polish government spokesman Robert Sobczak said the two men attacked this weekend had already left the hospital.

The Polish ministerial delegation will seek a commitment from the British government to ensure the security of Poles in the UK, but also to discuss their post-Brexit future in the UK.

”We hope the British side will respond to our calls for an information campaign that Poles are an added value for British society and economy, rather than a burden,” Sobczak said.

”This is particularly important in the context of Brexit,” he added. ”We want to underline that Britain’s divorce with the EU cannot mean that Poles who live and work in the UK legally suffer.”

The UK’s statistics office (ONS) reported in late August that the number of Poles in the UK was reaching a million and that they had overtaken Indians as Britain’s largest minority.

The Polish diaspora has increased more than twentyfold since 2003, the year before Poland joined the EU.

Before the June EU referendum, the Leave campaign vowed to stem immigration from eastern European countries by introducing an Australian-style points system that screens applicants on the basis of factors like education and skills.

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who was a leading Leave campaigner, has already met his counterpart Witold Waszczykowski to discuss the future of Poles in the UK.

British prime minister Theresa May has been reluctant to reassure EU migrants on their rights, leading to accusations of using people as bargaining chips in Brexit negotiations.

She contributed to the debate from China, where she attended the G20 summit, saying that a point-based system was difficult to manage.

"There is no single silver bullet that is the answer in terms of dealing with immigration,” she told reporters.

Poland’s PM Beata Szydlo will seek to speak to May once the latter is back from China.

UK’s Brexit minister David Davis will lay out the government’s vision of future EU ties before parliament on Monday.

It has been announced as a ”unique deal” with curbs on immigration while preserving a good deal for trade in goods and services.

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