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Local UK news story about Polish Migrants

Are We Poles Apart?

THERE are just under 500 eastern European migrants living in West Berkshire according to the most recent district council figures but a visit to workplaces, schools, pubs, restaurants and shopping streets across the district would suggest that the real figure is much higher than this.
With a growing Polish community apparently large enough to support two Polski-Skleps (polish shops) in Newbury alone, just how many Eastern Europeans are there in the district and what role do they play in our economy?
Anecdotally the number of Eastern Europeans in the district is growing, but West Berkshire Council’s district profile 2008 states that there are 390 Polish nationals, 80 Slovaks and 20 Lithuanians living in West Berkshire based on figures compiled by the Greater London Authority.
Polish national Olga Fedorowicz, aged 26, has been in the UK for a year and works at the Karolinka Polish shop in Northbrook Street which is owned by her sister Karolina.
Miss Fedorowicz estimated that there are at least 2,000 Eastern European migrants living in Newbury and Thatcham alone with more than one hundred people coming through her door on a “good day”.
She said that almost all of the Polish people who come into her shop know each other and some stay in touch on a Polish social networking site which has more than 250 members from Newbury alone.
However she said that she has noticed a slight decline in trade, which she attributed to more Poles returning to their home country in recent months.
The vice chairman of the West Berks Minority Ethnic Forum, Marcin Jezewfki, is a Polish national and has lived in Reading since 2005.
Like many Poles, 30-year-old Mr Jezewski started his British working life behind a bar and then stacked boxes in a warehouse before forming his own construction business – Partmar Construction Ltd.
Although he represents the long-term Polish community in West Berkshire, Mr Jezewski said that it was almost impossible to tell how many Poles lived in the district because of the unscrupulous nature of some employers and the transient lifestyle of seasonal eastern European workers.
He said that many Poles have to make a decision as to whether they plan to stay in the UK on a long-term basis or whether they will stay for a few months doing seasonal work.
According to Mr Jezewski, most Poles found their employment through recruitment agencies which would often not check the work eligibility of foreign nationals.
He said that those who have chosen to work on a short term basis would often not bother paying the £90 Home Office registration fee, as the incentive to do so was removed by agencies – making it impossible to track their movements.
This registration allows the Home Office to track foreign nationals by their employer even when they move to new jobs - although the tracking process ends after 12 months of working in the country.
He added: “The agencies do not really care – and many Poles coming over on a temporary basis do not care if they comply with the law.”
Mr Jezewski said that many Polish migrants were not looking to undercut British labourers and were not necessarily prepared to work for less, but that the language barrier often kept them in the lower paid service sector – a sector that West Berkshire Council describes as difficult to fill.
District councillor, Barbara Alexander, said that free language courses were available through Newbury College but had been scrapped last year by the Government. Mr Jezewski said charges for courses had put many local Poles off learning English in a formal setting.
However, the councillor said that West Berkshire Council was due to launch a free service at Whitelands Primary School in Thatcham on April 23 that would provide learning support, including English courses for Polish families"

She said: “We have to address the issue that we are getting a large influx of Eastern European people and we have to make provision for them.”
“Doing it this way probably costs us less.”
The district profile report estimates that numbers of eastern European workers will continue to rise and said that the EU expansion had brought new employment to difficult local recruitment areas – most notably the horse racing industry.
Horse racing industry worker’s charity, Racing Welfare, confirmed that the stables of Lambourn employ a large Eastern European workforce as stable lads and hands.
Racing welfare officer Rowan Hyde said that she believed there were possibly more than 400 eastern Europeans in Lambourn alone.
She said: “There’s an underlying opinion that they’ve come here and taken British jobs, but I don’t know of anyone who has lost their job here as a result of the influx of Polish workers.”
Senior employment consultant at Randstad recruitment, Michael Suppo, said that everyone underwent checks to ensure that they were registered with the Home Office and eligible to work in the UK, but added that his company only had four eastern European employees.
However, other recruitment agencies said that they did not take ethnicity or nationality into account when accepting new applicants onto their books, while others were reluctant or unavailable to talk.
As Poland is a largely Roman Catholic country the district’s churches attendance figures should be representative of a recent influx of Poles into the district.
However, diocesan spokesman for the Catholic Church, Barry Hudd, said that although there had been a noticeable increase in attendance figures across the district’s churches, none of them had been dramatic.
West Berkshire Council spokesman, Keith Ulyatt, said that the council’s figures were based on Polish people who had registered to pay National Insurance, but accepted that there may be more than suggested in the district profile.
However, Mr Ulyatt said that the lack of accurate data would not affect the council’s service provision for Polish people because most services were shared equally between all societal groups – regardless of nationality.
Newbury MP, Richard Benyon, summed up the position of Poles in the local economy saying that they filled huge local skills gaps, especially in difficult-to-recruit areas such as construction and care.
He said: “I don’t yet understand why we are finding it so difficult to recruit for the caring profession.
“Occasionally I receive bigoted remarks from people, but I remind them that when they get old we’ll see how much they need them.”
“We owe a debt of thanks to these people”

One example of the trajectory of many Poles in West Berkshire is 22-year-old Joanna Czyszczon who left Poland at the age of 19.
Miss Czyszczon said she was in the UK within three days of her father deciding that she should move to work in Great Britain – while speaking no English at all.
She found her way to Newbury and stayed with a distant member of her extended family who already lived in the district.
She said: “It was so scary!”
“I only wanted to come over for two months to earn some money for studying but ended up staying three years.”
The young barmaid, who currently works at the Lock, Stock and Barrel pub in Newbury, managed to find work through the Abacus agency within four days of arriving in Newbury. She was eventually offered a full-time position with Vodafone where she worked for nearly two years and now works full-time in the pub.
She said: “Life is much easier here than in Poland. I don’t want to go back.”
“I think Newbury is a good town to start off in because it’s quite small and you don’t need to drive – finding everything is easy"


Re: Local UK news story about Polish Migrants

"Anecdotally the number of Eastern Europeans in the district is growing, but West Berkshire Council’s district profile 2008 states that there are 390 Polish nationals, 80 Slovaks and 20 Lithuanians living in West Berkshire based on figures compiled by the Greater London Authority. "

this is probably either based on 2001 census data or the electoral register. As not everyone fills in ethnic monitoring forms it's unlikely to be accurate.