Warsaw, Poland – A majority of Poles now declares itself in favour of accepting refugees in the country, according to a recent survey by Kantar for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
According to the new poll, whose main findings were released by the Rzeczpospolita newspaper on Monday, a strong majority of the Polish population believes that Poland should accept refugees.
Majority of Poles in favour of accepting refugees
Reasons for this support may vary, however. Up to 62% of Poles agree with the statement that “Poland should willingly receive refugees, because we would also want to be well treated”, while 63% agree that refugees “can increase our country’s workforce, which is useful with an ageing society”.
An even stronger majority of Polish citizens (77%) believes that Poland should accept refugees forced to flee their home country due to persecution, war or violence, while 50% of respondents say that “refugees enrich Poland’s cultural life and make society more open to new ideas.”
Furthermore, 61% of Poles are in favour of accepting refugees because Poles themselves were refugees at one time and were welcomed by other countries.
The findings from the UNHCR survey mark a radical turnaround compared to previous studies, which usually found that, on average, around 55-65% of the population, citing both cultural and economic reasons, was opposed to the idea of accepting refugees in Poland.
Immigration: “Poles are generally very sensitive”
Anti-refugee sentiment was particularly strong in Poland – and other European countries – in the years following the 2015 migrant crisis, but political scientist Sławomir Sowiński notes that “Poles are generally very sensitive” on the matter.
“When we look at the research conducted before 2015, we see that we showed an attitude of openness at that time,” he told Rzeczpospolita. “In 2015, the refugee crisis appeared, the media showed us crowds storming Europe and the United Right [ruling coalition] that was coming to power at that time made it one of the leading issues in the election. All that created great fear.”
As highlighted by Rafal Kostrzynski, spokesman for UNHCR in Poland, the massive influx of Ukrainian workers coming to find jobs in Poland in recent years played a key role in these shifting attitudes towards foreigners and migrants.
“It can be seen that, when this subject is free of ideology and propaganda, this sensitivity is reactivated, and that is good,” argued Bishop Krzysztof Zadarko. “However, I’m afraid that if we asked about accepting refugees from Muslim countries, the results would be different.”
Main photo credit: United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)