POLAND has just become the largest country of birth for immigrants living in the UK – with an estimated 831,000 Poles now calling the UK home. However, some Polish students today spoke of their unease following the Brexit referendum – admitting they they did not know if they were still welcome here.
When the British people voted to leave the European Union in June’s referendum, they decided not only the future of themselves but also the future of millions of immigrants living and working in the country.
Most of the people have come to Britain after the enlargement of the European Union in 2004, looking for a better place to live. For many Poles, Scotland seemed a better place to live and work than their homeland.
And many Polish students came to Scottish universities to take advantage of the free tuition on offer.
Twenty-one-year-old Adela Sałacka is an Administration and Business College student. She said: “The living conditions are much better than in Poland. Universities and schools are much better than those in Poland. Young people have it easier here, to even find a part-time job while they are still studying. It is better here from an economical point of view.”
Many of the student arrivals from Poland see Britain leaving the EU as a bad decision.
Another 21-year-old, Emilia – who asked for her full name not to be used – is studying Psychology in UWS Paisley. She said: “We are immigrants. It is obvious that we would prefer if Britain would not leave the EU. Right now while UK is still in EU we, immigrants, Polish people have an easier time to get a job. All we need is to have a passport. After UK leaves EU it will not be as obvious anymore.
“As a student from the EU I am entitled for a free university as SAAS pays my tuition. After UK leaves the EU I will not be sure if I will still have that coming for me.”
Apart from economic fears, immigrants have also seen an increase in violence since the referendum. Several people have been attacked in England, with reports surfacing of people leaving their homes because they no longer feel safe.
Governments in Poland and Britain have taken steps to crack down on the violence, but some Poles do not feel as safe as they did before the referendum. They cannot be sure that incidents like this will not happen in Scotland.
Adela added: “I really hope that what is happening in England will not happen here. But you never know, how much more tolerance do Scottish people have, compared to English people?
“If the whole of Britain starts saying how bad and lazy Polish people are (not worrying about those who work and pay taxes, which is more than those lazy people) then Scottish people may start thinking differentially. Definitely after Britain leaves Brexit and the economy will not be so stable, so they will have to blame it on someone, and Polish people seem like a good scapegoat for that.
“I really hope that Scotland will not become the second England, but we never know. Before I heard about what is happening in England I was not afraid to come back alone at night. Right now I would not be that confident anymore. You never know what can happen.”
However as much as they seem to fear actions in England they underline that for now Scottish people are very supportive.
Adela said: “Knowing I’m Polish, people often ask if I am ok, and they underline how welcome I am here and that I should not worry about anything.”