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Hurdle race or the integration of migrants in Poland

A language barrier, bureaucracy and ambiguity of law, shortage of affordable housing, dishonest employers and discrimination, these are the main problems faced by foreigners living in Poland, as shown by the Foundation’s survey carried out among migrants living in Warsaw, Łódź, Białystok, Gdańsk, Gdynia and Sopot.

“Poland has become an attractive destination among immigrants. More and more people arrive here intending to settle down and stay for longer. They look for employment, start families, run their own businesses. The majority of newcomers do not speak Polish, especially at the beginning. They know nothing of the Polish law, culture or reality which exposes them to discrimination and abuse by other Poles or their own nationals”, says Agnieszka Mikulska, head of research.

The problem lies not only in their inability to communicate in any language they know but also in the lack of access to intelligible information on the health care system in Poland, the scope of social insurance benefits, or where to seek assistance when the employer breaches the labour law. This affects the comfort of daily living and, what’s more disturbing, hampers any chances they might have at a normal life giving minimum stability and safety.

“Integration is successful only where a migrant is able to function in the host society on their own and freely exercise their rights under the same conditions as nationals”, says Agnieszka Mikulska. This is a long process, though, which should be supported by helping migrants to learn Polish, ensuring their access to legal and integration aid and making Poles more sensitive to the specific situation of migrants.

Further, emphasis must be also placed on pre-integration actions taken prior to foreigners’ arrival in Poland. The studies showed that there are foreigners who come to Poland with no knowledge of the country, relying on a recruitment agency or en employer. Such migrants are often isolated from the rest of society, totally dependent on intermediaries or employers. The situation is conducive to discrimination against non-nationals and their exploitation.

The study findings and recommendations developed on their basis are contained in the publication “Hurdle race, or how to overcome obstacles on the way to integration”.

The studies were conducted as part of the project “Hurdle race, or how to overcome obstacles on the way to integration” funded from the European Fund for the Integration of Third-country Nationals and Poland’s state budget.

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