An IBRiS poll conducted for the liberal and pro-EU weekly Polityka was published on July 5. The two questions posed to 1,000 people polled was essentially to gauge loyalty to the EU or Poland. Poland would seemingly be happy to trade in EU membership than sell out their culture. This is not a debate about the rights and wrongs of taking in asylum seekers rather to point out what is happening on the ground.
Q1: “Should Poland refuse to accept refugees from Muslim countries even if this should lead to the loss of European funds?”
– YES: 56.5%
– NO: 40.4%
Q2: “Should Poland refuse to take in refugees from Muslim countries even if this should lead to the obligation to leave the European Union?”
– YES: 51.2%
– NO: 37.6%
This opposition to the relocation of asylum seekers arriving in Greece and Italy is reflected in the popularity of the Polish conservative PiS party. The PiS hit 41% in a June IPSOS poll for the first time (against Donald Tusk’s Liberal party PO at 26%). The poll was conducted at the same time the European Commission had announced the launch of sanctions against Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary for their refusal to accept immigrant relocation quotas.
It was only last week that Italy threatened to issue 200,000 refugees with EU travel documents that would legalize their movement around Europe (i.e. encourage their departures from Italy to the desired destination of Germany).
In response to Italy’s threat, Austria is now looking to shut its border with Italy at the Brenner Pass. Bild newspaper has said that Vienna was ready to close the Brenner Pass within a day if migrant arrivals increased. Tensions are already high. Austria has threatened to send armoured vehicles and 750 soldiers to stop migrants crossing.
Whether we like it or not, for all of the altruism in the world, it seems that a growing number of citizens want their governments to prioritize them first. Failure to do so is being typified by what is happening in Greece.
According to the annual survey by the firm Adecco titled “Employability in Greece,” the brain drain phenomenon has been increasing over the last three years. In 2005 only about 11% of unemployed respondents said that they were actively looking for a job abroad. This figure increased to 28% in 2016 and reached 33% so far this year.
The responses show that the unemployed have different reasons to seek work abroad. Whereas in 2005, the main reason was the prospect of a better wage, in 2016 and 2017 the main reason given were better career opportunities abroad. Greeks are giving up on Greece. EU fiscal thuggery is leaving a public system (especially health) under so much strain that it is buckling. 36% of Greeks live below the poverty line. That means many can’t access affordable healthcare because it is generally provided by corporates and when you lose a job you lose the healthcare. This means many are forced to use A&E of major hospitals which are now overcrowded and understaffed as more doctors are leaving to seek better fortune for their services.
If that wasn’t enough, mothers who had given birth were being restricted from taking their new-borns home if they couldn’t pay the fees. While the government has banned this practice they have introduced new laws to allow the seizure of assets (e.g. homes) if debts are not settled.
Forced refugee quotas on countries that plainly don’t want them is a bad strategy. Economic conditions are clearly not in the EU’s favour with poverty and youth unemployment at record high levels. For refugees, most do not want resettlement in either economically weak zones or those that are openly hostile toward them. That is completely understandable. For the citizens of member states to be threatened with sanction or penalty for failing to comply is the wrong way to go. By the EU’s own statistics bureau, 80% of asylum seekers are ‘economic’, not fleeing war zones. It is understandable that citizens become concerned when public services that are already under strain become overburdened.
Some can scream at these people for being bigoted, racist or intolerant till the cows come home but ignoring their views, much less ridiculing them has the opposite effect of winning hearts and minds. As a grandchild of refugees, helping those in dire need is basic human decency. One can be sure that many in real ‘need’ will give back to those that have given them a second chance. Those who have come to help themselves at the expense of others who have worked hard to attain it should hardly be surprised when they are not given the same level of sympathy.
What we are seeing in Poland, Italy, Greece and Austria is ‘actions’ over ‘words’. Unless concerns are addressed by political leaders, altruistic lip service will be ignored and sadly people will increasingly take the law into their own hands.