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International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

At the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, observed last week, experts remind about the areas of the most visible ethnic discrimination in Poland.
According to the last census, nearly 94 per cent of the surveyed population declared only Polish nationality, with little more than two per cent acknowledging their both Polish and non-Polish ethnicity. Only 1.46 per cent of the respondents stated exclusively non-Polish nationality. Those declaring only Polish or double nationality are primarily members of national and ethnic minorities, foreign citizens and Polish nationals with immigrant origins.

Statistics of the Office for Foreigners show that the number of foreigners settling down in Poland has been rising annually. As of December 2012, 111,971 persons had a valid residence card, the figure representing a ten per cent increase as compared to the previous year.

The study on the Poles’ attitude towards other nationalities, conducted by the Public Opinion Research Center (CBOS) in February 2013, for the first time in the last 20 years recorded a worsening attitude to other nationalities declared by the respondents. According to the study, the group Poles like the least are the Roma, followed by Romanians, Turks, Palestinians, Russians, Jews, Vietnamese, Chinese, Ukrainians and Belarusians. “Members of these nationalities have a relatively significant numerical presence in Poland. Also, unlike nationals of more positively assessed nations, they are easily identifiable because of their anthropological and cultural features”, says Agnieszka Mikulska, HFHR expert.

The Roma continue to be the most socially excluded group. A significant section of this ethnic group has to face very adverse living and housing conditions with 90 per cent of the working age Roma population having no permanent job. According to experiences of organisations involved in projects of Roma vocational activation, even qualified individuals from this minority are unable to find a job. “It happens that employers withdraw employment offers when they find out that the job candidate is of Roma origin”, says Ms Mikulska.

Official statistics reveal a relatively low number of hate crimes committed against national and ethnic minorities. In 2009, the Police recorded 155 cases of hate crime under articles 119, 256 or 257 of the Criminal Code. The relevant figures for 2010 and 2011 were, respectively, 197 and 186, with 84 such crimes registered in the first quarter of 2012. “These data may be incomplete because of various reasons, including the fact that crime victims sometimes fail to notify law enforcement authorities, especially of such incidents as verbal abuses, threats or insults”, explains Agnieszka Mikulska.

Racist violence is usually directed at individuals with a darker skin colour. The most frequently committed offences are of a verbal nature. However, in the last several years also more serious cases of violence were recorded, including beatings or attempted arson targeting residential premises occupied, for example, by Chechens or the Roma. Other incidents that occurred included cases of destruction of property, memorial or religious sites and vandalism of such objects, consisting in displaying racist or Nazi slogans and symbols.  “As law enforcement authorities have problems with finding the perpetrators a large portion of the reported cases are dismissed”, says Ms Mikulska.

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