Monday, September 24, 2007

Bad press for Poles in UK

Negative stories about Poles in the UK are a little like the London No 68 bus: you don’t see one for a while, then a load of them come along all at once.

The Sunday Telegraph yesterday:

More than one crime in five in London is now committed by a foreign national, raising fresh fears over the impact of immigration.

Around a third of all sex offences and a half of all frauds in the capital are carried out by non-British citizens.

Poles, who have entered Britain in record numbers since they joined the European Union in 2004, committed 2,310 crimes in the first six months of this year to become the most prolific offenders.

Included among those are 583 violent crimes and 32 sex offenses

Oh, dear

UK Police forces are complaining that the new arrivals into Britain are ‘putting a strain on resources’.

The story comes on the back of one printed in the usual suspect last week, the Daily Mail, which reported that Poles were claiming, as the headline to the story says, ‘one million pounds every month in child benefit’.

Like every good mother, Angela Trajkowski wants the best for her two children.

She buys them new clothes and puts healthy meals on the table, while keeping the family's private flat, overlooking a park in a leafy provincial town, in perfect order.

Her nine-year-old daughter, Martina, attends expensive private lessons after school and her youngest, a four-year-old boy called Alan, will soon be old enough to go to the local kindergarten in the mornings.

Dark-haired Angela, 31, works long hours as an office supervisor but she still relies heavily on child benefit from the state to make ends meet.

Every week, she puts Martina and Alan in the back of her blue Renault Clio and drives the five minutes journey to the cashpoint at her local bank. There, she draws out the £33-a-week put into her family account by the British government. It totals £1,650 each year.

Yet this young Polish mother does not live in Britain. Her home is thousands of miles away in Lubin, a town near the picturesque city of Wroclaw in south-west Poland and close to the German border.

Lubin has no historical links with Britain, while Angela speaks only a smattering of English (learned when she worked for a few months as a cleaner at the London home of singer Bob Geldof and his wife, the late Paula Yates).

Angela is just one of thousands of women across Eastern Europe who, because of the crazy system of hand-outs dispensed by Britain's generous welfare state, are entitled to child benefit.

This week, ministers admitted that more than £1million a month in child benefit is going to the families of youngsters who live in the former Soviet bloc countries.

I should point out that the headline ‘£1m of child benefit paid out a month - to mothers in Poland’ is rather different from the concluding sentence, ‘£1million a month in child benefit is going to the families of youngsters who live in the former Soviet bloc countries,’ – plural. But this is the Daily Mail after all, which as you can see by the style of the ‘news’ article, is not news at all, but propaganda.

An extra 2.500 sounds a lot – although as a percentage of the Polish population in London is it minute – lower than the ratio between offense and population in other ethnic groups, including indigenous British.

Still, these kind of stories will be used by those who believe that free movement of labour and people is a bad thing.

There has been a drip, drip of these stories ever since Poland joined the EU in 2003. But stories like these do tend to come in clusters. Either editors see one story and then go looking for a similar one; or, when there is a broader political context into which these stories fit.

We saw a cluster of these stories before Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU this year.

Polish immigration is again a hot topic, it could be argued, because the EU Constitutional Treaty is back on the (very boring) agenda. Many in Britain are trying to force the government to have a referendum on the subject – new PM Gordon Brown is resisting.

One of the arguments against the EU as a whole – and the EU Treaty in particular – is that it is giving away sovereignty. No doubt about that, of course. The immigration ‘problem’ – our old friend the Polish plumber – is seen as another further loss. Brits are a little shocked by the size of the 'invasion'.

I was listening to BBC Radio 5 last night and the amount of phone calls from Angry of Croydon complaining that there ‘are signs going up all over the place in Polish. Can’t even read the signs in me own country…’ etc...was rather sad.

So if, and when, the EU does comes on the news agenda in the UK, so will stories of wicked Poles in the UK eating baby foxes.

Watch more and more ‘Poles steal baby swans on child benefit’ type stories appearing in the press, as the EU treaty issue heats up in Britain.

The Polish plumber has got his monkey wrench stuck down a British gutter (press).


Anonymous said...

That Daily Mail article is rather less one-sided than you make it out to be. It clearly says for each of the people they talk about how much the person is earning and so is clear that each person is paying taxes. "The Trajkowski family qualify for child benefit because their father works in London as a builder and pays his taxes."

Now if they wanted to be really anti-Pole they'd write about how it used to be for Brits working in Poland back before Poland joined the EU. Anybody else remember the days when foreigners here had to pay ZUS but were forbidden from claiming any benefits from ZUS? And they could write about how Polish hospitals will refuse to treat any Brit who can not prove he/she pays ZUS and how some hospitals simply point-blank refuse to accept the European Health Insurance Card and will not treat foreigners unless the foreigner pays cash before treatment.

beatroot said...

Now if they wanted to be really anti-Pole they'd write about how it used to be for Brits working in Poland back before Poland joined the EU.

No they wouldn't say that Harry, cause that would defeat the point of the article - that EU is bad and brings in spungers. If things were worse before Poland joined EU then that would rather not fit the 'everything was better before we joined the EU' type stuff.

The style it is written in is just breathtaking. The bit about 'crazy laws' in a news article beggers belief.

And by the way Harry, I reckon the Mail has quite a few of these stories up its sleeve and will be pushing them out about now...

Damien Moran said...

And over in Ireland they are writing:

The popular (yes, it's a heap of paper shite) daily Irish Independent - "Immigrants work much more than the rest of the population, new Census figures have shown."

Moreover, the German Ambassador, after lambasting Ireland's Celtic Tiger economy, health service, etc. says that we have a sadder history than Poland. Hmmm, ours is pretty sad alright, but for sure the Poles topped us in the 20th century. The German Ambassador ought to realise that.

The local Midland paper, the Nenagh Guardian, connected to Independent Newspaper group had an article last week about how "Poland and Ireland are connected with romantic patriotism, love for tradition and spiritual experience."

This is a welcome change from the Polish drivers are maniacs headlines and a most hilarious news item I read last year regarding the Kaczynskis blessing an extradition request for Pole who had a warrant out for his arrest in Poland for stealing two chickens prior to his departure for Ireland's land of milk and honey.....and cheap chickens.

Thanks BR for the Daily Mail Watch....tedious as it is to read their tripe, it's important to refute their Polebashing.

zsommand said...

off:All my polish friends have been or planning to go to UK. I always keep aking them why leave behind their lifes?

zsommand said...

What is the big deal about England in Poland anyway?

The Huntsman said...

Do we know what the figure is for offences per 1000 individuals of any given nationality. If there are 100 Martians in the UK and Martians commit 100 offences, that is rather a serious thing. But if there are 1 million Martians in the UK and Martians commit 100 offences, that is quite a different thing.

The figure for offences per 1000 Poles may still be unhelpful to their cause but I wonder if the actual such figure might not be more helpful in making a judgement.

On an anecdotal level Poles here in Kettering are numerous but quite unobtrusive save that we now have the benefit of some interesting food and drink products in the corner shops.Beyond that I have not heard of any particular problems and Poles seem to have simply merged unobtrusively into the background.

On the odd occasion when I have seen Poles in local shops I have noted their perfectly quiet demeanour and politeness. Beyond that I have no complaints.

michael farris said...

"What is the big deal about England in Poland anyway?"

Polish people never compare anything in their country with countries in the region or countries at a similar level of economic development. They always compare Poland with the richest western economies which breeds a kind of festering unsatisfaction with almost everything in Poland.

And nationalistic politics aside, there's very little idea of helping the Polish economy (for Polish people governments exist to wheedle money out of).

I don't know how this compares with Hungary. IME Hungarians live-to-work (which means liking your job is more important) while Poles work-to-live (which means that economic rewards are more important than inherent interest in one's job). I've been told that EU accession hasn't cased nearly as large a percentage of the population to seek greener pastures.
But I haven't been in Hungary for a couple of years :(
so I'm out of date on that front.

Brad Zimmerman said...

It's kind of off-topic, but I wish there were more road signs in Poland in English. Virtually every other EU country has *at least* their "toll road" signs in English...

I think the exceptions are the "see you again" (leaving city limits) signs.

My Polish has long since been good enough that I can understand the road signs that do exist, but I often wonder what tourists do when encountering road signs they can't read? Ignore them, I guess.

Regarding the DM article: of course the crimes committed by Poles are, basically, a drop in the bucket compared to "native" crimes/criminals. I think every reasonable British person will understand that. The real question is: how many reasonable British people are there?

Anonymous said...

Intersting stuff about anti-foreigner discrimination in pre-EU Poland from Harry. Have any of you tried to lodge a cheque made out in euros in a Polish bank lately? Free movement of capital my arse!

Anonymous said...


why should road signs be in anything other than the local language? Other than near borders and ports, I know that many other European countries only sign in the local language. Certainly Germany, Belgium, France which I drove through earlier this month only use their own language(s).

What Europe as a whole does quite well is to use international road signs for all to understand. I'm currently in the USA and notice that most roadsigns are in written English only (and often obscure even to a native English speaker). Now *thats* not helpful to visiting tourists.

beatroot said...

Intersting stuff about anti-foreigner discrimination in pre-EU Poland from Harry.

But Poland was no different from anywhere else in the pre-EU days. Nothing 'POlish' about that...and the amount of Poles forced into insecure and exploitative labour in London back then is something we should not forget either. It was pretty easy for me to get jobs in Poland.

Kewenay said...

Daily Mail readers will be glad to hear that, according to Warsaw's Metro, Poles are beginning to return to Poland. See,50145,4521410.html

Anonymous said...

I live in a small town/village

5 years ago everyone was known to each other. Now we have many Poles living and working in our community - and most have embraced life:-)

And I too have embraced the Polish culture - having been to Poland 4 times in the last 12 months. I read the press - but I know what I see!

The Daily Mail as a lot to answer for!!

The vast majority of Poles living here want a quiet life, a drink with friends, to work and play hard - same as we do - what is wrong with that?

Unknown said...

As an Englishman married to a Polish woman for the last 10 years I have a view on this. We also have two children.

It seems from my not inconsiderable experience of watching the borders open to Poland that as there has been an influx of poles the opinion of people has changed from interest to, in some cases, downright hatred of the sort reserved for gypsies, people from the indian sub continent and anyone else with an odd skin colour.

This I can put down to several causes really.

1. The transient workers who come here to earn money and then leave, often these are students on temporary contracts. These people live 6 or 7 to a property, buy in polish satellite television and avoid contact with the english.

2. Poles from the countryside in Poland, ill educated and uninterested in integration save from being able to purchase the necessary objects to eat etc. Again these people are mostly unintersted in integration, sending money back home.

3. Those who come with the specific intention of settling here, mostly these people start families and leanr english - sending their children to english schools.

My wife knows each one of these groups and has been at pains to point out the differences between them to me. And this is the interesting thing:

The Poles view themsleves worse than the english do, classism is way more evident between socio economic groups in poland than it is between the english.

The ones who cause the most trouble are those who are akin to football hooligans, tetchy factory workers and country bumpkins who have as much tolerance for other racial groups as they do for a bad cold.

Outside London things are different , small towns have less tolerance for workers of foreign extraction be they from poland or lithuania.

There are other side issues which have an effect here. Recently we decided to immgrate ourselves to Canada and to get my wifes paperwork from poland would have cost 600GBP and taken a year before they dealt with it. So she became naturalised, it took 4 months from start to finish.

When this issue comes up i often think of 'Auf Weidersein Pet' and how English working abroad is never EVER viewed in the same way as people working in this country.

As for the issue of crime, there's lies, damn lies and statistics, in a ratio i dont imagine for one second that poles are somehow worse human beings than anyone else. Although it probably does highlight the need for better management of the benefits system across europe, although admitting it does mean that we give more power to europe - something that i find distasteful