Polish Londoner

These are the thoughts and moods of a born Londoner who is proud of his Polish roots.

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

A Fair Deal for Poles in UK – Open Letter to Prime Minister Theresa May from UK citizens of Polish origin

13th October 2016 Dear Prime Minister. There is a long tradition of warm Polish-British relations starting with the Polish soldiers who settled here after the 1830 rebellion against Russia, and including prominent Poles in England such as Marie Curie and Joseph Conrad and the Polish soldiers, sailors and airmen, including the legendary 303 Squadron, who served under British command in the Second World War. Those close ties extend between the two countries in a common NATO strategy and in joint active service in Iraq and Afghanistan. These experiences contributed to the special welcome given to Polish workers in the UK after 2004 when Poland joined the EU. According to the first quarter of 2016 ONS statistics there are at present 984,000 Polish nationals living in the UK. They are the largest national grouping out of the 2.9 million EU citizens currently residing here. 75.4% of Poles in the UK are of working age (the majority aged between 20 and 39) and 87% of them are employed and paying taxes. Less than 2% are pensioners. A further 189,000 (19.2%) are children below the age of 15 who see the UK as their home. The majority of them arrived here from 2004 onwards after the British Government opened up the UK labour market to Polish workers and other EU nationals in order to bring in a dynamic younger work force which would tackle the skills shortage, re-energize the British economy and rejuvenate the ageing population. The Poles have continued to maintain their highly motivated work ethic, set up more than 87,000 businesses and contributed generously to the UK exchequer. They have also, with time, set up their own families here and, with over 22,000 babies now being born each year to Polish mothers, they have helped to revert the UK’s falling birth rate. Following the result of the EU referendum on June 23rd, Polish workers and their families woke up to the shock awareness that their presence in the UK was no longer so welcoming. Most Leave campaigners during the referendum campaign had assured them that the status of EU nationals currently here would be safe. Yet in the aftermath of the referendum Poles found themselves open to abuse and on many occasions to actual physical attacks from UK citizens who interpreted the referendum result as a call for all EU foreign workers to depart. Traumatized Polish schoolchildren were bewildered by their fellow pupils asking them when they were leaving this country. There were ugly incidents of hate crime including serious physical assaults and arson attacks in towns such as Leeds, Spalding, Lancaster and Plymouth, and even a tragic death in Harlow, as well as instances of graffiti vandalism and intimidating abuse in public places throughout the UK. Despite the overwhelming expressions of sympathy and support from the British public at large for victims of such abuse these incidents continue. The Government have stated several times that the EU nationals should not be expelled. Yet at the same time government ministers have called for indigenization of the work force in the NHS, in agriculture and in industry, referred to the need for Polish construction workers to obtain visas, threatened to impose a requirement for British businesses to list all their foreign employees and have consistently refused to guarantee the right to stay for Poles and other EU nationals until all 27 EU countries have given similar guarantees for UK nationals living abroad. The International Trade Secretary has even referred to EU nationals as being a “key card” in the negotiations lasting over the next 3 years. In light of this Polish families remain very concerned about their future here. This procrastination antagonizes the EU countries, many of whose governments, such as those of France, Spain and Portugal, have already offered to retain residential rights for UK citizens. The UK government cannot blame EU governments for this uncertainty. It was the British people who chose to leave the EU and not the other way around, so the onus is on the British government to act first. It is shameful that Polish children who considered the UK their home should be treated by the UK government as hostages in long term negotiations with the EU. We urge the UK government to declare unequivocally now that Polish citizens here legally under EU treaty rules, as well as their dependants, will be allowed to stay and work in this country, apply for indefinite leave to remain, and, if they wish, for UK citizenship, and that every effort be made for police and local government to record all incidents of xenophobia and racism, especially in relation to Polish and other EU citizens. It is to the advantage for the UK government to make such a declaration promptly because: 1/ It is the duty of the UK government to honour its commitment to those who arrived here legally under EU legislation with which the UK had voluntarily acquiesced 2/ It will give UK companies a more stable environment in which to plan their future investments and recruitment policies 3/ It will set a positive tone for starting future negotiations with the EU after Article 50 is invoked 4/ By setting a deadline arrival date now for EU citizens already in the UK, it will prevent a feared late surge of EU nationals seeking to find permanent residence here 5/ It will reassure Polish families and Polish businesses over their future in this country and prevent an unnecessary early exit of Polish entrepreneurs and skilled workers from the UK 6/ It will give clear notice to all perpetrators of hate crimes in UK that Polish workers and their families have a right to stay in the UK. Signed: Krystyna Bell, cultural coordinator Andrzej Błoński, architect in private practice Alina Callender, retired civil servant Piotr Chłapowski, architect Andrzej Fόrmaniak, chartered engineer Danuta Hart, headmistress Maria Horbaczewska, retired city banker Stefan Kasprzyk, former Mayor of Islington Joanna Kańska, actor Dr Olgierd Lalko, community leader Ludomir Lasocki, former adviser to Polish Finance Minister Jan Ledόchowski, financial adviser, film-maker Rula Lenska, actor Joanna Młudzińska, project manager Jan Mokrzycki, former Chair of Federation of Poles in GB Wiktor Moszczyński, ex Ealing Councillor, author Bartłomiej Nowak, community centre manager Irma Pietroń, retired solicitor Romana Pizon, Bradford community leader Jolanta Sabbat, Health Policy Consultant Dr Marek Stella-Sawicki MBE, military historian Magda Szkuta, librarian curator Andrew Zaleski, solicitor Andrzej Zakrzewski, chartered engineer Prince Jan Zylinski, ex London Mayoral candidate Contact address: Wiktor Moszczyński, Convenor, A Fair Deal for Poles in the UK, 48 Inglis Road, London W5 3RW, Tel 07786471833

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