Thursday, August 03, 2017

Polish Xenophobia

Nearly every day, there are attacks on the few foreigners in Poland with the country's ruling right-wing nationalist party, whose leaders rarely dissociate themselves from racist violence, being held to blame. It used to be that foreigners were rarely humiliated or beaten up in Poland - but now such cases are increasing. There have even been xenophobically-motivated death threats.

Konrad Dulkowski of the Monitoring Center on Racist and Xenophobic Behavior, Poland's independent anti-racism nongovernmental organization, reports "Overall, we are witnessing a huge increase in the number of anti-xenophobic attacks, both in terms of their number and their degree." Dulkowski sees a clear correlation since PiS took power a year-and-a-half ago. Today the monitoring center receives 30-100 complaints per day. Police statistics also paint a disturbing picture. The number of crimes motivated by racist or xenophobic sentiment has multiplied sixfold since 2010. In 2016, there were officially over 700 such offenses. The xenophobia monitoring center complains that many crimes directed at foreigners are not even prosecuted. "The state organs are trying to cover up the fact that the hatred of foreigners that helped the PiS to power is now out of bounds," Dulkowski says.

During the 2015 election campaign, PiS politicians ranted about immigrants hailing from the Middle East and Africa. At the height of Europe's refugee crisis, the party also opposed the inclusion of around 7,000 "quota refugees" from camps in Greece and Italy, although Poland's then-center-right liberal government had promised their admission. PiS Party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski's fear-mongering included warnings that epidemics such as cholera could be brought in by refugees, or that Polish women would be attacked. Top PiS candidates called Islam "a major danger" by establishing a direct link between the wave of refugee arrivals and the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels. PiS has been mobilizing against "political correctness" and the "left-wing EU establishment" since the party's 2015 government takeover.

As late as the 1990s, Poland took in tens of thousands of Muslim Chechens as refugees. Today, even Chechen families with small children on the Polish-Belarusian border in Terespol are prevented from applying for asylum. But in the face of this obvious violation of human rights, there is little opposition from the public today.

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