Page last updated at 16:05 GMT, Friday, 22 January 2010

Claims over Polish immigrants' return 'not true'

Poland bound bus leaves UK
Many Polish migrants have returned home, some reports suggest

A Polish expert on migration says claims that half of all Polish immigrants to Britain have returned home are not true.

The Migration Policy Institute had said 1.5m people from new EU states, mostly Poles, had come to the UK since 2004 and that more than half had now left.

Immigration minister Phil Woolas said only about 700,000 remained.

But Prof Krystyna Iglicka, of Warsaw's Centre for International Affairs, said Poland saw no evidence of this.

"We do not see them here," she said of the reported returned immigrants.

FROM THE TODAY PROGRAMME

Prof Iglicka told the BBC's Today programme that Polish research indicated the contrary. Official estimates for Poles working abroad rose consistently until 2008, when they fell only very slightly.

"From our side this is not true," she said. "We do not see them here; we do not see them in any other different countries."

Prof Iglicka also cited real figures for the numbers of the returning Poles who had registered at their local labour offices.

She said they would have to do this to transfer any benefits earned abroad, or to claim benefit in Poland. The figures for 2008 were just 22,000 for the whole country.

Prof Iglicka's own estimate is that about a million Polish migrants are still in Britain.

'Circular' movement

But Mr Woolas said figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed half of the 1.5m people who had come from European countries had now gone home.

He said the number of A8s - economic migrants from the eight accession states of eastern and central Europe that joined the EU in 2004, such as Poland, Hungary and Lithuania - registering to work had fallen by about 30,000 each quarter in 2009.

But he conceded it was "not an exact science" because the Workers' Registration Scheme did not include self-employed workers or eastern Europeans who had come from other EU countries.

He said there was a pattern of "circular migration" within the EU, but people had been attracted back to Poland because it had benefited from a huge European Union infrastructure investment fund.

The other big factor was the impact of the exchange rate, which meant Polish workers could get more in Poland, he said.

The Polish government has launched several campaigns to lure back Poles over the past few years, with the officials in Wroclaw billing the historic city as a place to start a career.

Justina Wilner, 24, said she came to the UK in 2008 because it was "really hard" to find a job after she finished studying marketing at university in Poland.

She currently works as a office manager in Northallerton, Yorkshire, but said she "definitely" plans to return to Poland in a few years' time because there are more well-paid job opportunities for young people living in cities like Warsaw, Cracow or Wroclaw.

I treat England as my country - this is my family's home
Damian Marmura
30-year-old Polish migrant

"For young people, it is much better when you have some experience and a language.

"However for people over 40, living outside large economic centres, the situation remains the same as it was a few years ago. The lack of jobs or poorly-paid positions are not attractive for them, therefore those people are more likely to stay in the UK," she said.

She said hardly anyone she knew had returned to Poland: "All my friends are still here, bar one, who had family problems."

But Damian Marmura, 30, has no plans to return to the country he left in 2005.

"I treat England as my country - this is my family's home," he said.

He said he graduated from university in Poland but could not find work, so moved to Brighton with his wife to "start a new life and get a better future for [his] child".

Although his first job in the UK was as a street cleaner, he said he has "worked his way up the ladder" and is now the operations manager of city cleaning for Brighton & Hove City Council.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said Mr Woolas's estimate about the number of immigrants that remained in the UK was "in the right ball park" but the focus on Poles was a "distraction from the wider challenges of mass immigration".

"East Europeans as a whole - A8s - account for only 10% of the total foreign-born population of the UK," he said.

The Migration Policy Institute is an independent think tank in Washington, which analyses the movement of people worldwide.



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