Poles urged to return home amid Brexit disquiet

The Polish ambassador to the UK has written an open letter to more 800,000 Poles living in Britain urging them to "seriously consider" returning to their home country because of Brexit.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met with The Republic of Poland Ambassador to the United Kingdom Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met with The Republic of Poland Ambassador to the United Kingdom Ambassador Arkady Rzegocki. Copyright First Minister of Scotland. Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)

In a BBC interview on Wednesday, Arkady Rzegocki expressed concerns over the Settled Status Scheme that entitles EU27 to remain permanently in Britain if they have been resident for more than five years.

Problems for almost half of EU citizens applying for settled status

“42% of EU citizens who have had applied to achieve settled status have had problems. Many have received pre-settled status,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.He said many Polish people did not realise they had to register because they had lived in the UK for many years. “Even if they have resident status, they still have to register,” he said. “There are quite a lot of problems with people trying to receive settled status. People who have been here five or 10 years have also had problems."On one hand, there is still a lot of time to apply (until the end of next year), on the other hand, because of Brexit, it is better to achieve settled status soon."

An improved economic situation makes Poland an ideal place for returning Polish expats

But the ambassador said that he had written to the Polish community in Britain - estimated by the Office for National Statistics at 832,000 in 2018 - because the improving economic situation in Poland provided an ideal opportunity to return to their homeland.Mr Rzegocki said in the letter that only 27% of Poles in the UK had submitted applications for settled status, saying this represented an “alarmingly low level”.He added: “I also encourage you to seriously consider the possibility of returning to your homeland. The rapidly growing economy of our country creates more and more opportunities for citizens for development and good living conditions in the country.“Soon, Great Britain, which has been home to thousands of Poles for generations, will most likely cease to be a member of the European Union – which we regret, but we also see this process as an opportunity to strengthen the bond between our two countries.”In his BBC interview, Mr Rzegocki said: “Poland and the Polish economy is growing, life standards are improving – they are much different compared with five to 10 years ago. I think it is a very good opportunity to come back to Poland. I think you can achieve your goals in both Britain and Poland.”When asked how many Poles might choose to go home, Mr Rzegocki said: "It is difficult to predict. Last year 116,000 left the country. There are still about a million here but you can see there is a discussion being had."We are doing the best to keep our relationship as close as possible as there is a long friendship between our countries."

UK Home Office defends the Settled Status Scheme

On the same programme, Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins defended the Settled Status Scheme. "The government want to make the process as easy as possible," she said. "These people are our friends, our neighbours, we want to make this as easy as possible."Ms Atkins said the government had already approved 1.1 million applications under the scheme and had another 300,000 in the pipeline."The system was designed with the EU. We absolutely appreciate that there will be some people who don't have documentation to prove they are part of our country, but we have invested in advertising campaigns to ensure people can be assisted," she added.

For more news and views, visit our dedicated Brexit section.

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