IMMIGRANTS IN POLAND – PROPRIETY OF A MEETING
FR. WIESŁAW WÓJCIK TChr
The contemporary international migrations became a popular and massed phenomena, and for a few dozen years in a special way concerning Poland (especially from the moment of entering the European Union) and other countries of the Middle Europe, as new places of people’s migrations. Considering processes of the European integration and globalization, which result, among the others, in decreased immigration of foreigners, a suitable evaluation of the scale of migrations in the world and in our country seems essential.
What do statistics say?
According to data collected by the Population Department for Economic and Social Issues of the United Nations Organization in the publication ‘World Migration in Figures’, at present about 232 million people in the world live outside their own countries, that is, 3.2 per cent of the global population. The United States takes the first place in the list of countries hosting people arriving from other countries with the percentage of 20 (45.8 million). The Russian Federation is in the second place (11 million), Germany takes the third place, Saudi Arabia takes the fourth place (9.1 million), later Great Britain (7.8 million) and France (7.5 million). It is clearly seen that first of all, material mechanisms and other factors of life standard contribute to emigration.
Although Poland remains ‘an emigration country’, demographers notice that immigration to our country is getting more frequent. At present representatives of 13 national minorities and ethnic live in Poland, whose number is estimated for about 1 million.
Is it good or bad phenomenon? Should we care about attracting young and educated people, especially from countries which are culturally close to us? I think so because data are alarming. In relation to birth rate, we take only 211th place among 226 surveyed countries of the world. In the first half of the last year in Poland 183 thousand children were born, and 202 thousand people died. Whereas, according to the data of the National Census of Population and Flats of 2011, among the permanently registered in Poland, for minimum 3 months over 2.2 million people were abroad. In the last 4 years over 100 thousand children were born abroad, whose mothers are young Polish women. If it was not for emigration, they would have been born in their own country.
The low demographic level and job-seeking emigration can lead to a sudden crisis of the Polish pension and public finances system. According to the Foundation ‘Energy for Europe’, ‘so that Poland would not be short of hands for work, 5.2 million people must settle down here till the year 2060’. Estimates of the National Polish Bank say about the necessity of 100 thousand immigrants every year. This purpose is not going to be easy to achieve. As sociologists emphasize it is necessary to encourage others to come to Poland. Certainly, the best method is economic development and it is in a poor state in Poland. Therefore, we must not make a life difficult for people who decided to come to our country. It must be admitted that in this respect from the beginning of the existing III Polish Republic there has been a significant progress. From 1990 to 2006, in fact, all foreigners had to have work permit. In 2006 some concessions from this rule were introduced and from July 2011 work permit is not required from citizens of EU countries, Switzerland and Turkey, as well as graduates of Polish universities studying in a stationary system. In the first half of the year 2013 mostly the Ukrainians, Belarusians, Russians and Armenians applied for residence permission in Poland. An important residence card is owned by 117 thousand foreigners, and those who are working illegally can be in the same number.
Poland needs immigrants
We should not be afraid of immigrants. People coming from the former USSR are looking for work in such sectors as building, agriculture and domestic services – cleaning and looking after children or elderly people. Wise emigration policy is such a policy which pays attention not only to cultural closeness but also to intellectual values of arriving people. It is high time we were attracting qualified and talented workers to Poland and this is connected with innovation. There is hardly any action in this sphere from the government.
According to the Ranking of Innovation prepared by the European Commission, Poland is in the weakest group of the so-called humble innovators with such countries as Romania, Bulgaria and Latvia.
In next decades help of immigrants will be very useful in our homeland. However, can we expect that immigrants will solve our problem of the ailing pension system? It seems that their help will be reliable, although not sufficient.
Immigration will not replace either long-term pro-family policy, or actions aimed at arousing economic growth, which would also contribute to the return of Polish emigrants. It is good, that Poland changed from a ‘transit’ country into the ‘immigrant one’.
However, what can we do today for immigrants arriving to our country?
Pope Francis shows with his behavior how to create ‘a better world’, how to pass from ‘rejection culture into the culture of a meeting and solidarity’.
The Holy Father emphasizes it in his message for the 100th World Day of a Migrant and Refugee which we celebrated on Sunday on 19 January 2014. In our country, known in the world for its sensitivity to poverty and exile of others, there must be a necessity of overcoming all prejudices towards immigrants. In some groups there is sometimes an attitude of suspicion and fear towards newcomers. So, the Holy Father encourages us to ‘see not only a problem in a migrant which we must face, but also a brother and sister whom we should accept, respect and love’. This accepting them belongs to tasks of parish communities in Poland, in order to open oneself up to the integration of foreigners.
A parish can become a school of hospitality and a place of experience exchange. For example, in the archdiocese of Warsaw the liturgy of the Holy Mass is celebrated in 13 languages, among the others, in Korean, Lithuanian and Russian.
Getting prepared for the great day of canonization of John Paul II, it is worth reflecting on his teaching addressed to those people who are arriving from their homes here for various reasons. We have a Christian duty to accept everyone in need who is knocking on our doors. We must make much effort in our country to overcome any tendencies to closing ourselves up and perceiving different culture in other people rather than God’s creation. In the message for the World Day of a Migrant and Refugee in 2002 John Paul II wrote: ‘I call immigrants to acknowledge the duty which tells them to respect countries accepting them, as well as respect laws, culture and tradition of nations which host them. This is the only way in which harmonious social cooperation will develop (…). A road to the factual acceptance of immigrants with their cultural otherness is difficult in practice and in some cases a real road of the Cross. However, we cannot be discouraged from realizing God’s will who in Christ wants to attract all people to himself, by using his tool -the Church’.
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Fr. Wiesław Wójcik is a director of the Institute of Emigration Ministry