Polish Londoner

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

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Justice for Poles in UK

Justice for UK Poles There is a long tradition of warm Polish-British relations going back to the Polish revolutionaries who settled here after the 1830 revolt against Russia, to prominent Poles in England such as Marie Curie and Joseph Conrad, to the heroic role of Polish soldiers, sailors and airmen, including the legendary 303 Squadron, serving under British command in the Second World War and to the close ties between the two countries in NATO strategy and in Iraq and Afghanistan, all of which contributed to the special welcome for Polish workers in the UK after 2004 when Poland joined the EU. According to the first quarter ONS statistics for 2016 there are currently 984,000 Polish nationals living in the UK. They are the largest national grouping 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 a 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 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. Although most Leave campaigners during the referendum campaign had assured them that the status of EU nationals currently here would be safe, in the aftermath of the referendum they 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 for instance ugly incidents included serious physical assaults and arson tickets in Leeds, Spalding, Plymouth and even a death in Harlow, as well as graffiti vandalism and insulting comments in public places throughout the UK. The Government have stated that the EU nationals should not be expelled but 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. It is shameful that Polish children 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 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 that had been approved by the UK’s membership of the EU 2/ It will be set the right tone for a more positive start to the future negotiations with the EU after the critical responses in the EU to the British Government’s anti-immigrant declarations at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham 3/ By setting a deadline date for arrival in the UK it will prevent a late surge of EU nationals seeking to arrive here in order to be assured of the right to stay in the 4/ It will reassure Polish families and Polish businesses over their future in this country and prevent an unnecessary early departure for Polish entrepreneurs and skilled workers from the UK 5/ It will give clear notice to all xenophobic and racist elements in the UK that Polish workers and their families cannot be intimidated into leaving the country. Wiktor Moszczynski Convenor, Justice for Poles in the UK 48 Inglis Road, London W5 3RW Tel 07786471833

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