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Polish in UK 'deserve to be protected', Warsaw ministers tell counterparts

Published 05/09/2016

People attend a vigil in Harlow after the death of a Polish man in a possible hate crime
People attend a vigil in Harlow after the death of a Polish man in a possible hate crime

Hardworking Poles living in the UK must be protected from hate crimes, Polish foreign minister Witold Waszczykowski said after meeting with senior cabinet members in response to a wave of post-Brexit violence.

Mr Waszczykowski and Poland's home affairs minister Mariusz Blaszczak met their British counterparts Boris Johnson and Amber Rudd following the series of "unjustified attacks" against people of Polish origin in the UK after the "very heated" campaign preceding the country's vote to leave the European Union (EU).

These include the killing of Polish man Arkadiusz Jozwik in Harlow, Essex, and the physical assault of two Polish men within hours of a vigil for Mr Jozwik.

The Polish Embassy in London said its consuls have intervened 15 times in recent weeks over reports of xenophobic incidents.

Mr Waszczykowski said: "Once again I would like to reiterate: the Polish community, the overwhelming majority of them are people who are hardworking, intelligent, smart.

"They are contributing to the society, to the community, to the economy, they are paying taxes - they deserve to be protected."

In a meeting on Monday evening which lasted over one hour, the ministers discussed the steps that need to be taken to provide security for Poles living in the UK.

The Polish ministers said they were grateful that Prime Minister Theresa May, Mr Johnson and Ms Rudd had condemned the attacks.

They added they were confident the recent spate of violence was "an original phenomenon" that would not be repeated.

There will be a meeting on Tuesday between the Polish and Essex police in Essex, they said.

During the meeting, Mr Johnson and Ms Rudd said they would be looking very closely at the incidents, "which we treat as a very good sign for the future", Mr Blaszczak said.

The Polish ministers offered help from Polish police to assist UK officers in communicating with Polish communities, and suggested educational programmes about the contributions of Polish migrants.

Mr Blaszczak said: "What we want to achieve is to make sure that that investigation is effective and perpetrators of that tragedy are brought to justice."

Mr Waszczykowski said: "We are here not to criticise, not to blame, not to accuse. We are here to find the facts, to find the reasons why it happened and we are here to better solve the problems."

Asked if the Polish government regretted its role during the renegotiation over Britain's place in the EU, he said: " The deal which was accepted by the British side in February, it was satisfactory, so we shouldn't be blamed for this.

"The result of the referendum was a great surprise for the whole of society and of course the government, so once again, we shouldn't be blamed, we Europeans, for the lack of good result in the referendum."

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "The Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, offered his condolences for the tragic death of Arkadiusz Jozwik.

"The Foreign Secretary reassured Minister Waszczykowski and Minister Blaszczak that violence against anyone in this country is a crime and will be treated seriously. The Polish community here in the UK provides a huge contribution to our country and will continue to be welcome."

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