A Polish expert on migration said on the BBC’s ‘Today’ programme this morning that 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.
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.
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 for their time in Poland, he said.
Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK, said Mr Woolas’s estimate 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. Source: BBC.
You can listen to the interview on the BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8473869.stm
Immigration Matters Comment
There may be evidence that Polish people are leaving the UK as the economies in their own countries improve and the pound weakens, but in truth, the government has no accurate figures on the movement of Poles, or any other Eastern European migrants, since they can freely enter and leave the UK.
Even the ‘Workers Registration Scheme’, hurriedly set up to monitor EU migration when Britain allowed ‘free movement of labour’ to the former eastern bloc citizens in 2004, is not always adhered to by working migrants and their employers and does not apply to the self employed.
Of the Eastern European workers and students I have come across and advised in the last five years, not one has returned home or has any intention of going back.
One young Polish Law graduate, who was working as a waitress in London, told me that as soon as she arrived in Britain she made up her mind that she was “never going back” and added that “the UK is my home forever”.
Many I know have bought houses for their young families, started businesses and are making a contribution to the UK economy, so why would they want to leave?
Are you a Polish or EU migrant living or leaving the UK? What’s your view?