Poland to make urgent UK visit following post-Brexit attacks

Protesters wave Polish and EU flags during a pro-EU march in Warsaw in 2016. [Kacper Pempel/Reuters]

Poland yesterday (4 September) announced three senior ministers would make an urgent visit to London following attacks on its nationals in Britain, including a murder which may have been a hate crime.

The announcement of the government delegation to Britain came hours after two Polish men were assaulted in a British town, following a vigil for a fellow Pole killed in August.

There was an upsurge in the number of reported hate crimes around the period of the 23 June referendum in which Britons voted to leave the European Union.

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“In connection with the recent incidents targeting Polish citizens in Britain, the following ministers are planning an urgent trip to London: Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski, Justice Minister Zbigniew Ziobro and Interior Minister Mariusz Błaszczak,” foreign ministry spokesman Rafal Sobczak told Polish media.

The date of the visit had not yet been finalised, Sobczak added, but a government source said it could take place as soon as Monday afternoon.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło also wants to speak directly to her British counterpart Theresa May about the recent attacks, Sobczak said. May is currently in China for the G-20 summit.

According to Sobczak, the Polish government delegation wants to elicit “an effective declaration from the British side that the safety of Poles will be guaranteed.”

Warsaw for its part wants “to firmly state that the divorce between Britain and the EU cannot mean that Poles who work legally in the UK will suffer,” he added.

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‘Prevent xenophobia’-

“This was a vicious and horrible attack,” said police official Trevor Roe of the most recent assault, which took place at around 3:30 am (0230 GMT) on Sunday.

One Polish man suffered a broken nose and another a cut to the head during the attack outside a pub in Harlow, which is northeast of London, police said.

“Although we are considering this matter as a potential hate crime, it is not being linked with the attack at The Stow last weekend,” he added, referring to the killing of factory worker Arek Jozwik.

Jozwik, 40, was killed in Harlow on 27 August and hundreds of people attended a vigil in his memory Saturday.

Six teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of being involved in the murder and released on bail. While police are investigating whether it was a hate crime, they say the motive is still not clear.

On Saturday, Waszczykowski urged Britain to keep Poles safe from xenophobia in comments that followed talks with visiting British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in Warsaw.

“We’re counting on the British government and authorities responsible for the safety of British and European citizens, including Poles, to prevent the kind of xenophobic acts we’ve seen recently,” he said.

Some 800,000 Poles are thought to live in Britain, one of its biggest minority groups, under EU rules allowing freedom of movement between member states. Poland joined in 2004.

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