Migrations: Poland’s missed (for now) opportunity

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On September 15, 2023, world media were abuzz with the news that 7,000 migrants, mostly from Tunisia, had arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa within 48 hours. The population of the island is about 6,000, and the migrant reception center can accommodate at most 400 people. Local authorities have declared a state of emergency, and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and
European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen have arrived on the island.

 

The background to the crisis situation at the EU’s external border are the ongoing difficulties in reconciling migration policy at the European level. Although the European Union signed an agreement with Tunisia in July of this year that was supposed to stop illegal immigration from North Africa, the funds promised to Tunisia have not yet been disbursed, so the new system failed to work. Similar crisis situations may recur in the future, and while it is necessary to take action at the European Union level, it is far from sufficient:

each member state shall create its own effective policy and stance on the matter.

The topic of the admission of immigrants, including refugees, in the autumn of 2023 is increasingly emerging in the Polish public debate also due to the upcoming elections. Despite the many discussions, there is no single, clarified state doctrine on the subject. The ruling party declares a policy of strict border protection, but in practice the situation is chaotic. There is a lack of a specific migration policy. The opposition accuses the government of scaring the public with immigrants on the one hand and welcoming them in an uncontrolled manner on the other. In the autumn of 2023, the visa scandal came to light.  The investigation, currently being conducted[1] by the Central Investigation Bureau, the National Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Central Anticorruption Bureau, concerns irregularities in the issuance of visas for immigrants from Southeast Asian and African countries.

The consequences of the scandal will be grievous – not only for politicians, but also for the country. The scandal will halt the influx of migrants for a while, making it difficult for universities (problems with student visas), entrepreneurs and causing migration paralysis. All because of the lack of a coherent, transparent, data-driven policy in this area to distinguish between immigrants who are ready to take on the challenge of co-creating Poland – they want to work, educate themselves, learn the language and stay here for the long term and opportunists who are not interested in legal, long-term migration that requires contributions to Polish society. If such a policy existed, Poland could view mass migration as an opportunity for society and the economy. However, this has not happened.

What is needed now is a deep rethinking of our whereabouts in terms of immigration policy – not only at the national level, but also at the global and European level. One component of WEI’s overall mission is to strive to reverse Poland’s negative demographic trends. One of the necessary steps to achieve this goal is to implement a sound foreign policy. I hope this report can help with its formulation.

The first chapter of the report presents the global and European context of migration, showing the broader picture of both migration and key migration trends. In the second chapter, I present the current state of migration to Poland with a particular focus on the situation after the attack on Ukraine by Putin’s Russia. The third chapter presents Poland’s population and occupational needs. In the fourth chapter, I provide recommendations for migration policy.

[1]                         As of 17.09.2023

 

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