“We don’t want Muslim terrorists here,” the Polish pensioner says, when asked about EU plans to resettle Muslim refugees from the Middle East and North Africa more broadly across the continent. “Have you seen the trouble the Muslim so-called ‘asylum seekers’ are causing in the West?”
The Guardian (h/t Liz) It’s a popular view here, if a baffling one. Poland is little affected by the refugee crisis in Europe, and accepts vanishingly small numbers of migrants. And yet the country has some of the most pungent views on immigration on the continent.
A recent survey for the television station TVN found that two-thirds of Poles share the same hostility towards immigrants expressed by the Warsaw grandmother cited above.
ccording to a study in 2013 by the Centre for Research on Prejudice – a professional academic centre at the University of Warsaw – as many as 69% of Poles do not want non-white people living in their country.
A vast majority believe that immigrants take work away from Poles and that their presence is detrimental for the economy. It’s a view shared more broadly in eastern Europe, despite insignificant migrant flows in all of Poland’s eastern neighbours.
“In Poland, there will be NO sharia law. NO headbanging or shouting Allahu Akbar in the streets. NO insulting our religion and our culture. NO burning cars like in France. NO burning down police stations. NO imposing your ways on us. NO calling us the sons of apes and pigs. If you do, we will be the ones waging jihad…on YOU!”
Politicians are in a fix. On the one hand, the EU has asked Poland to do more to resettle foreigners in the name of European solidarity. Some of Poland’s partners note that it has done very well out of EU membership. Now is the time to give back.
On the other, the ruling Civic Platform faces a tough challenge to be re-elected in autumn elections. It is not the only government finding it hard to stay on the right side of both the electorate and the eurocrats.
“People just don’t want immigrants here,” one senior Civic Platform politician says. “They don’t understand them, they don’t like them, and believe that their maintenance is too expensive.” As a result, the government has consistently protested against EU allocations for refugee quotas, which suggest that next year Poland should take about 1,000.
In the spring, Civic Platform found itself under pressure from NGOs that appealed for the admission of 300 Syrian Christian families threatened with death by Islamists (but it was stressed that they were Christians, and therefore less culturally alien).
According to the UN high commissioner for refugees, Poland has pledged to accept just 100 Syrian (Christian) refugees between 2016 and 2020.
Poland has never been a hospitable country for refugees. In 2014 the head of the office for immigration granted protection to just 732 foreigners, and refused entry to 2,000 people. Of those accepted, 115 were Syrian – although civil war in Syria has forced 4 million people to flee. About 5,500 cases were dismissed, primarily because refugees were trying to reach western Europe, particularly Germany.
The government should carry out a major educational campaign. For years no one has done this and now that a crisis has erupted associated with the wave of refugees, Polish people are completely unprepared.” Surveys show that for a majority of Poles the world’s problems should should be dealt with by someone else.
Politicians can sense this mood. It’s no accident that – according to OECD statistics – Poland was the lowest contributor of development aid in proportion to gross national income in 2014. Development assistance last year fell from 0.1% of gross national income to just 0.08%.
A proposed mosque in Warsaw has stirred protests much like uprising against the Ground Zero Victory Mosque in NYC. This mosque, which received financing from Saudi Arabia, would be only the second one in Poland.
The construction of a new Muslim center in the heart of predominantly Catholic Poland has outraged activists across the country. Opponents say the mosque in Warsaw would bring antisemitism and could foster Islamic radicalism and terrorism.