More and more Polish citizens living in the UK after considering moving back to their homeland amid ongoing uncertainty over Brexit, the ambassador has said.
Polish ambassador to the UK Arkady Rzegocki said he hoped a strong Polish community would remain after Brexit but he acknowledged some Poles were contemplating either a return home or a move to another country.
Mr Rzegocki, who was on his first official visit to Northern Ireland, said he hoped migrants would be welcomed in the UK after it exits the EU as he highlighted the important role they play in the country’s economy.
“I have to say more and more people are thinking about coming back to Poland, some of them are thinking about different countries, different European countries,” he said.
The ambassador said other factors were also motivating decisions to move home, such as the relative strength of Sterling and Polish Zloty, economy improvements in Poland, and simply a desire to reconnect with relatives.
But he said Brexit uncertainty was having an influence, saying: “For sure uncertainty is not good for the future.
“I am sure as Polish came here during the Second World War and they are part of the society from this time they will be an important part of the British society also in the future.
“Our work and our challenge is to cooperate despite of Brexit.
“We focus mostly on the negotiation process but there is life after Brexit – that’s why many people are working hard to make these links as strong as possible also after Brexit.”
The ambassador expressed relief that an upsurge in hate crimes against Polish people in the UK in the wake of the 2016 Brexit referendum had not lasted.
Mr Rzegocki said Poland had itself dealt with an increase in migrants in recent years.
“The truth is there is a huge contribution of Poles and European Union citizens to the British economy and British culture and I think everybody should appreciate that,” he said.
“Poland became a country of many migrants during the last few years and we really are happy that so many people wanted to work and live in Poland and I think a similar situation should be in Britain.
“It’s difficult to image some parts of the British economy without migrants, so I hope that everybody understands that.”
Mr Rzegocki has a number of engagements on his four-day visit to Northern Ireland, including a concert to mark the centenary of Polish independence and the unveiling of a new monument to two Polish RAF squadrons based in the region during the Second World War.
He said he wanted to spread knowledge about the historic Polish contribution to Northern Ireland and wider UK society.
“I am very glad that they (Polish citizens) integrate well and work hard and give a lot of contribution to Northern Irish society, but from my perspective we can co-operate even closer,” he said.