Transposing emblem by Pawel Awdejuk
One of the most polarizing topics in modern Poland is the question of immigrants and refugees. Should we let them in, or not? Naturally, the issue is much more complicated than it seems.
Unfortunately, we are in a group of anti-immigrant countries at the moment. This is largely due to the rule of a right-wing, populist “Law and Justice” party. But that is not the only reason. There is a vocal group of people supporting this position and protesting any decision on accepting outsiders.
However, there are also strong advocates for welcoming immigrants.
Which side is right? And is this a question of right or wrong at all? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of accepting people from other nations.
The main arguments for accepting immigrants are:
- It is our moral duty to help them.
War is a terrible, inhuman cataclysm. No one deserves to take part in such a hellish experience. People, who just try to survive, to live another day, victims of such a barbaric catastrophe, should be helped. Especially, since Poles also needed this help some time ago. And got it. During World War 2, thousands of Polish refugees were accepted in Iran, India, Mexico, Africa and New Zealand. And citizens of these countries were afraid of these waves of aliens as well. But the important thing is – our refugees got help, when they needed it.
- They can work.
The unemployment rate in Poland today is at a record low. And many companies struggle to find good workers. Especially in manual labor. Both immigrants and refugees can fill that void and help Polish entrepreneurs operate their companies at optimal capacity. This will result in better productivity, more goods and an increase in the economic stability of our country.
- They can help us fight demographic decline.
Poland’s demographic problems get worse every year. Society is getting older, and there are fewer and fewer working citizens. Government programs designed to stimulate the birth rate have not been very helpful. The broadly advertised “500+” program (where each family gets PLN 500 monthly for their second child and every one after that) began to fail two years after its introduction. The growth rate of the population is dropping again, despite the money being thrown at parents to procreate. We need fresh blood, and newcomers from outside may prove to be the only answer we have.
- They bring cultural diversity with them.
It is a proven fact that diverse organisms operate better. It does not matter if we talk about genetic variation, interdisciplinary teams or societies with diversified backgrounds. People from different cultures bring new things with them. They can teach us new skills, new ideas, a new approach to art. By mixing with us, they can make us stronger.
- Poles are immigrants too.
Poles are among the most active immigrants in the world. You can basically find us in every country. A huge Polish diaspora can be found in America, Germany, France, Ireland or the United Kingdom. Actually, according to the Office for National Statistics, Poland is now the most common non-UK country of birth for people living in the United Kingdom. Poles are second only to Brits when it comes to numbers in the UK. And it wasn’t easy for the people in Great Britain to accept us either. There was a lot of fear and uncertainty in 2004 when British borders were opened to Polish workers. Therefore, it’s a bit hypocritical for Polish people to be so aggressive and afraid of immigrants coming to us.
The arguments above look quite nice, right? So are all the immigrants good, honest and a great addition to our happy Polish flock? Unfortunately, no. And there are some strong arguments against accepting them as well:
- Adaptation problems
People from different cultures can add much to our own and enrich us as a society if they want to share with us and adapt to our society. Sadly, many of the newcomers remain in closed, homogenous groups and can resist joining the society they live in even decades after coming to a country. Especially, if they come from war-torn places.
War never changes. And it’s basically always hell. Living in a country affected by war is an extreme experience often demanding an extreme approach to survival. Watching your loved ones die, fighting for shelter and the last scraps of food, doing hideous things just to keep living. It changes people. So, oftentimes refugees coming from countries affected by war have a mentality that is far from a “happy camper.” They’re closer to a bunch of Mad Maxes coming straight from a post-apocalyptic wasteland. They don’t need just a place to sleep and something to eat. They need social workers and psychologists to work long and hard with them, so they can be ready to join peaceful society again. And if there’s no psychological help and they’re left to themselves, they retain the war-survival mentality and simply attack and grab whatever they need. Logically, this leads to problems with the law and contributes to the opinion that refugees are brutal beasts ill-adapted to living in a civilized country.
Unfortunately, some immigrants are connected to terrorist cells. Others are simple criminals, looking for easy prey. They are a definite minority, but the problem is real. Therefore, a country, which intends to invite immigrants and especially refugees, needs a solid verification program created in cooperation with other European countries to be able to recognize and deter such threats.
- Welfare parasites
Most immigrants and refugees just want to have peace and something to do to earn their living. However, there are those who abuse the social welfare system and just want to live off the benefits. It’s a worldwide problem and some of the Poles also have shown the ability to leech the British welfare system for their own gain. Therefore, again, the immigrant and refugee verification – both before accepting new guests and after they have settled in our country – should be well-planned and efficient.
- There are many more shouters than helpers.
This issue regards activists more than refugees or immigrants. Many people are vocal supporters of accepting everyone who would like to take refuge in our country. But when asked: “Ok, will you take one of them under your roof? Will you donate some money to this cause? Will you spare some clothes or food?” they say: “No.” In some circles it is trendy to promote such an attitude, but such a “paper supporter” is more a part of the problem than the solution. Because people allowed blindly into a country, with no resources to help them and no idea how to integrate, will end up on the street and in ghettos.
So what is the final answer? What should we do? Should we welcome newcomers with open arms, or forbid them entry to our country?
Both of these extremes are wrong. Of course, we should let them in. We basically need them. But the process of admission should be well-planned and properly executed. Accepting immigrants, and especially refugees, is a serious logistical and psychological challenge. It is not enough to just let them into the country, give them a bag of clothes, some money and a bunk bed. These people need serious help, the assistance of psychologists and social workers, proper integration programs, etc. And there needs to be a solid exclusion process upon entry to discourage terrorists and criminals from entering. It should be done wisely and in cooperation with other European countries. Only then can it work for the benefit of both sides.