Poland is willing to give visas and jobs to foreigners. Why do some want to cross our border illegally?

Last year alone we welcomed half a million economic migrants. This means that in one year our country has expanded by a city the size of Gdańsk.

"This is frightening! Already the barrier that has been built on the Polish-Belarusian border is completely pointless. If it w. as supposed to stop migration, it has not stopped it these are the words of MEP Janina Ochojska in response to the announcement of the creation of a network of entanglements on the Polish-Russian border. In turn, MP Franek Sterczewski does not rule out going to the Kaliningrad region should migrants appear there. And Anna Blaszczak-Banasiak, head of Amnesty International Poland, makes it clear that Poles divide refugees by skin colour: the lighter ones are accepted more readily, the darker ones are despised. She adds that those from the Belarusian border are only looking for a better life.

Meanwhile, around half a million economic migrants from more than 120 countries around the world find a "better life" in our country every year - legally. This includes countries as far away as Rwanda, Bangladesh and the Philippines. In the first six months of this year alone, with the consent of the Polish Government, 16 thousand Indians, almost as many Uzbeks and 500 Cubans, Moroccans, Nigerians and Ugandans came to work in Poland.

The owners of employment agencies interviewed by us unanimously claim that Poland, compared to the entire European Union, is a kind of Eldorado when it comes to granting employment permits. What is more, successive amendments to the Act on foreigners, which have been introduced for years, facilitate access to our labour market.

"Citizens of non-EU countries, unless they are engaged in specialised professions, have practically no chance of obtaining a legal work visa from Germany", says Bartosz Cebula, owner of Work Partner Service.

SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE If we do not want to believe the figures of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy and the Central Statistical Office ( GUS), then let us refer to Eurostat data. In 2021, the number of so-called first residence permits in EU countries issued to non-EU citizens was almost 3 million. Every third such person received a permit in Poland, the lion's share of which concerned an employment permit.

Many unanswered questions

How is it that some Indians or Nepalese have been risking their lives and the lives of their children for a year, trudging through the Bialowieza swamps, while their neighbours legally disembark at Okęcie and just as legally go to work at six in the morning?

How is it that one Nepalese necessarily finds a 'better life' in Berlin, while his rural neighbour finds that life in Lomza?

How is it that this Nepalese, who has managed to get across our green border and has been accommodated in a refugee centre (or a flat rented by some foundation), flees to Germany the next day, while the Nepalese, who has been working here legally for years (often on the national minimum), is granted permanent residence or citizenship and does not seek illegal work in Germany, but stays in Poland?

And - finally - how is it possible that citizens from the poorest third world countries, where a day's wage is the equivalent of two dollars, do not like the 'better life' in Poland, while we have become a second home for several million refugees from the much richer Ukraine? After all, anyone granted a residence permit in Poland could today legally enter any EU country.

A rod, not a fish, stupid!

A family of 10 from Kabul had to flee Taliban-captured Afghanistan as quickly as possible. The father was a soldier working closely with the US army. The terrified Afghans without possessions ended up in Poland, specifically at the Lena Grochowska Foundation.

"They knew they would never return to their family home. They intensively started to learn the Polish language. At that time we employed them in our financial group (Lena Grochowska's husband owns, among other things, the Arche hotel chain) in the lowest positions where language was not required," says Aneta Żochowska, the foundation's director. "They started with the proverbial dishwasher and menial jobs in the hotel. After six months of self-denial, they left our walls and opened their own kebab restaurant. The whole family still lives near Warsaw today".
Uber Eats delivery man at the Dmowskiego Roundabout in Warsaw. Photo by Mateusz Wlodarczyk / Forum
Wladyslaw Grochowski has always said that you have to help with your head. It is not a matter of giving a fish. You need a fishing rod and intensive learning to use it. Only then does it make sense to help.

And the Polish state has chosen exactly this model of assistance. Poland did not become the leader in the number of work permits issued in the European Union after Russia's February aggression against Ukraine: it has been so for years. In 2015, we issued 65,000 of them, and a year later we doubled this number to 127,000, only to double it again next year to almost 240,000. In 2019, we issued as many as 444,000, and last year we issued a record half a million! The explanation for this phenomenon is simple. Since 2015, the unemployment rate has been falling, and employers have been forced to look for hands all over the world.

Every day a town of immigrants

It seems that - unless something extraordinary happens - the inflow of workers from the Ukraine and especially from Belarus will no longer increase sharply. In the last six months alone, for the first time, more Indians and Uzbeks came to Poland than Belarusians.

But just behind them were also representatives of those nations whose members the Border Guard most often find in forests: these are Filipinos (10,000), Turkish citizens (mainly Kurds and Syrians with Turkish passports - 10,000), Nepalese (8,000), citizens of Turkmenistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia (5,000 each). Emigrants from Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Cuba, Uganda, Sri Lanka, Colombia and Pakistan received several hundred permits each. The list includes people coming from more than 120 countries around the world.

In addition to Ukrainians and Belarusians, in the first half of 2022 Poland welcomed 120,000 people from all over the world! And this means that we legally accepted 666 people every day! Last year it was 1380 people per day! A small town of immigrants appeared in our country every day.

"Obtaining a work permit in Poland is one of the easiest in the entire European Union", confirms Bartosz Cebula, owner of Work Partner Service, which specialises in bringing workers from 'exotic' countries in faraway Asia, in an interview with the TVP weekly. And he explains how this is done in practice. His employees search for specific candidates for workers in their home countries, submit applications to the Provincial Offices and deal with the formalities.

"The problem is the Polish embassies in the countries concerned," he complains. "Polish posts do not have enough staff to issue documents on a regular basis to all those willing to work in Poland. Sometimes our candidates have to wait more than a month in the queue".

No chance to Germany

Already one in twenty workers in Poland is a foreigner - these figures are given to us by Anatoliy Zymnin, spokesman for the EWL Migration Platform, who himself came to Poland from Ukraine almost 20 years ago to study and decided to stay in our country. "It is in practice very difficult for unskilled manual workers from outside the EU to get work permits in Germany", he explains and adds. "Meanwhile, Poland welcomes labour migrants from the East very willingly".

This is confirmed by data from the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy. As many as 86 per cent of all permits are issued for simple jobs in manufacturing, warehousing or construction. If we add to this another 5 per cent in the catering and hotel industry, and count those employed in agriculture and other simple professions, it turns out that in practice we are mainly attracting unskilled workers. For example, in the entire last six months only 2 doctors were recruited to Poland from abroad.

Western countries select their immigrants and drain the third world of its intellectual elite, people who were not even the worst off in their homelands. Poland is giving a chance for a normal life to uneducated people who would never have such an opportunity in their homelands. Which is not necessarily the best thing for our economy.

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Social, not work

If the Republic is so willing to accept foreigners for work, why are there still so many illegal immigrants on the Polish-Belarusian border? People who, after all, had to pay huge amounts of money to get into one of the European Union countries?

After all, as mentioned above, today numerous Polish recruitment agencies have their own branches in Asian countries, recruit there, prepare all the documents needed for departure, help with contacting the embassy and even pay for the flight to Poland and provide accommodation in our country.

“Because the people we see on the border are not interested in work”, says bluntly a migrant living in Poland, Oleksandr Shcherbakov, the owner of the DP Workers employment agency, which also brings workers from Bangladesh, Nepal, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan. “ They go where they will receive an attractive system of social benefits. Poland won't give them money for free, so they don't want to stay here. Some of these people have probably never worked before. Some come from countries where, in their culture, a woman does not work and has never worked in her entire life”.

He adds that his employees from Nepal, for example, have been living in Poland for many years and are happy with the change in their lives. They go to work, have made friends in the local community and plan to stay here for longer.

He argues that the difference between Ukrainians who come to Poland and illegal migrants is that Ukrainians want to earn as much as possible, put it aside and return to their country to change their social and property status. "Migration from the forest" are people who already want to stay in Western countries for the rest of their lives and expect others to work for them.

However, many employment intermediaries refuse to answer the question of why some people come to Poland legally, while others, coming from the same country, wander around the Belarusian forests. Mateusz Żydek from Randstad Polska believes that each case of illegal migration may have its individual reasons. Some entrepreneurs do not even hide the fact that just considering this issue would be a violation of political correctness and could damage their business.

This is because left-wing activists who demand - supposedly in the name of human rights - that illegal migrants arriving from Belarus be allowed into Poland are using a kind of moral blackmail. And it must be said that they have succeeded in getting many Poles to support their actions. This can be seen, for example, in the public collections they organise. The Granica Group has almost half a million zlotys in its next online fundraising.

It should not be forgotten, however, that the situation on the border with Belarus is also being exploited by extreme nationalists with slogans such as "Poland only for Poles".

Meanwhile, the truth is that we are the most open country and the most open society of the entire European Union, to people from literally all over the world. Emotions can be aroused, hard data cannot be disputed.

– Karol Wasilewski
-Translated by Tomasz Krzyżanowski

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

Expert commentary:
Szymon Witkowski
attorney-at law to the Law and Legislation Department of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers:

When it comes to employing foreigners from exotic countries, culturally distant to us, in Poland, of course we need such workers, especially specialists, and we should attract the best of them. Of course, such people must provide a guarantee that they will not be a threat to the security of Polish citizens. However, it is most desirable to attract workers from across the eastern border, as these are people who are culturally close to us, often with Polish origins - fortunately, it is from there that economic immigration is the largest. Nevertheless, we cannot limit ourselves to these directions and close ourselves off from other regions of the world.

Indeed, sometimes there are problems in obtaining a visa to Poland, and there are also informal barriers that exist in many countries with corruption problems. Unfortunately, there are times when these informal barriers are insurmountable for those without adequate cash assets.

Nowadays, a Polish visa can be obtained without a great problem, the regulations are becoming more and more liberal and this should be welcomed. When foreigners work legally with us it is beneficial for the Polish economy. All the more so because of our demographic situation, as Polish society is one of the fastest ageing in Europe. At the same time, we have the second lowest unemployment rate in the EU, and it is becoming increasingly difficult for our employers to find workers, and this is detrimental to the economy, because we are developing more slowly than we could. Poland's labour shortage affects highly specialised industries such as IT or medicine, but also professionals such as mechanics, electricians, plumbers or truck drivers.

– noted by KW
Main photo: Warsaw, 27 May 2022 - Vocational activation day for refugees from Ukraine, organised by the Office of the Mazovian Governor. Photo: Andrzej Hulimka / Forum
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