Page last updated at 16:38 GMT, Wednesday, 4 June 2008 17:38 UK

BBC denies MP's anti-Polish claim

Warsaw bus station
Thousands of Poles have travelled to the UK in recent years

The BBC has firmly rejected claims by an MP that its coverage of immigration has led to an increase in attacks on Poles living in the UK.

Daniel Kawczynski said the BBC "liberal elite" was using "white Christian" Poles as a proxy to avoid covering "more controversial" immigrants.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he "genuinely feared" the coverage was leading to violence against Poles.

The BBC said the "picture he paints is not one we recognise".

"These are serious allegations being made and there was no evidence given in Mr Kawczynski's interview to back them up," a BBC spokesman added.

'Fair and balanced'

The spokesman went on: "To say the BBC doesn't run stories about other immigrant groups and simply concentrates on the Poles is not true.

"For instance recently there has been coverage of other Eastern European migrant workers in the fruit picking industry and a report on the routes taken by immigrants from West Africa into Europe and the UK.

"There has also been extensive coverage of the concerns, lifestyles and cultures of the African, Caribbean, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities.

"However, Polish nationals make up one of the largest group of recently arrived legal immigrants into the UK and our coverage reflects this.

"Our coverage of Polish immigrants aims to be fair, accurate and balanced, as with our coverage of all immigrant communities."

'Controversial immigration'

Daniel Kawczynski, Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham, repeated his criticism of the BBC in the House of Commons.

He told MPs "nine out ten" immigrants were from Africa, the West Indies and the Indian sub-continent but the BBC "constantly referred to immigration from Poland".

They won't dare refer to controversial immigration from other countries, always referring repeatedly to Polish immigration
Daniel Kawczynski

"They are using the Polish community as a cat's paw to try to tackle the thorny issue of mass, unchecked immigration into our country.

"They realise that immigration needs to be discussed, as it has become uncontrolled under the Labour government, yet they won't dare refer to controversial immigration from other countries, always referring repeatedly to Polish immigration."

Having studied the BBC's output, he said MPs would be "amazed at the amount of coverage that the BBC focuses on white, Christian Poles because it's politically correct to do so".

Bank holiday bid

He said he was also "appalled" by Trevor Phillips, head of the recently created Equality and Human Rights Commission, for not taking the issue more seriously.

"If this was being done to another ethnic minority group it would simply not be tolerated. I expect and demand that the Commission for Racial Equality also focuses on white ethnic minorities in this country so that nobody is penalised and nobody is made to feel like a scapegoat."

As chairman of the Conservative Friends of Poland, Mr Kawczynski said he had seen an increase in violence towards Poles and he was "convinced this is as a result of the media coverage by the BBC".

Daniel Kawczynski states his case to MPs

He made his comments as he was outlining his bid for a bank holiday to recognise the contribution Poles have made to the UK since 1940.

He hailed the bravery of Poles during the Battle of Britain for contributing 145 pilots, and the "leading role" Polish cryptographers played in breaking the Nazi enigma codes.

He also praised the contribution of the thousands of Polish workers who have come to the UK since the country joined the EU in 2004.

Mr Kawczynski's Bank Holiday (Contribution of Polish Citizens) Bill, which has support from a cross-party group of MPs including former Europe minister Denis MacShane, is unlikely to become law due to a lack of parliamentary time.

Racial attacks

About one million migrants from Eastern Europe have arrived in the UK since 2004, with the majority coming from Poland, according to research by the Institute of Public Policy Research. Half of them are thought to have returned home.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, Poland overtook India in 2005 and 2006 to become the second most common citizenship of immigrants, after British people returning to the UK.

There have been a number of reported incidents of attacks on East Europeans in recent years around the UK.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said there was "little evidence of a spike" in racial violence against Poles in London, home to thousands of the new arrivals.

Polish people reported 42 racially motivated attacks against them in 2007, compared with 28 in 2004.

Only UK citizens and Somalis reported more race attacks last year in London, although by far the biggest group remains attacks where no specific country was mentioned, which accounted for 7,619 alleged incidents.

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