The limits of failed returns to Poland

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  • 1. Polish migrants: integration strategies and settlement plans Anne White, University of Bath Poster from Newcastle Polish Saturday School
  • 2.Deciding to settle abroad Families with school-age children Majority seem to be settling gradually (despite frequent discussions within families about when/whether to return) Other couples/single people Sometimes return to Poland, fail to re-integrate and decide ‘definitely’ to re-settle in the West: become double return migrants
  • 3.Livelihood strategy approach Why do individuals/families choose certain livelihoods from among the range of possibilities they perceive to be available to them in their local area? How much agency do they actually enjoy: can they formulate ‘strategies’?
  • 4.The research projects (both with interviews in Poland and UK) Polish Families and Migration since EU Accession (Bristol: Policy Press, 2011) 2006-9. 102 interviewees – all working-class mothers - included 19 return migrants. Own opinion poll in SE Poland. ‘Polish Double Return Migration’ 2010-2. 32 interviews, 50:50 f/m, different ages, backgrounds. On-going ethnographic research Teaching English to Poles in Bath since 2007
  • 5.Why do Polish families move to the UK? How do they decide how long to stay? How are thoughts about return shaped by experiences of integration and opportunities for transnational practices?
  • 6.Why do Polish families move to the UK? In other words, why is whole family migration preferred to migration by just one parent? Solo parent migration – often for years on end - was the norm 1989-2004, and remains common even today. This type of migration implies very little integration into the receiving society. Strategy = ‘earn abroad, spend at home’. However, since 2004, an increasing number of families have begun to break this norm. Migration with children increasingly seems both feasible and better for the whole family.
  • 7. ‘So off he went [to the UK], and after about four months, six at most, not longer than six months, his wife followed after. Everyone in the village thought they were mad, that they simply wouldn’t be able to cope, after all, she wouldn’t be working and they had two small children… They reproached them and said that he should have gone on his own, or perhaps she could have left the children with the grandmother.’ Krystyna, Grajewo ‘When we first came [to Bristol in 2005] there were really very few children, when we went to church you very rarely saw a child, and as for four children all at once! Some people couldn’t understand how a family like that could migrate’ Barbara, Bristol
  • 8.Own opinion poll, Podkarpacie, 2008
  • 9.9 ‘It’s better for children … to go abroad with both parents, rather than staying in Poland without one parent’ a) children under 12 b) teenagers
  • 10.10 ‘In my locality you can notice certain problems connected with parental migration’ a) more broken families b) children left in Poland have psychological and behavioural problems
  • 11.How do families decide how long to stay abroad? Migration by whole families/family reunification tends to lead to settlement abroad (among migrants of all nationalities) but often this settlement isn’t really planned in advance Among post-2004 Polish migrants, family migration often has an experimental quality The outcome of the experiment hinges on experiences of integration, transnational activities and (temporary) returns
  • 12.
  • 13.Integration-transnationalism-return dynamics within families: vicious/virtuous integration circles Sometimes both parents feel increasingly discouraged and separated from UK society, while the children have British friends and speak with increasing confidence Typically, however, the spouse who is stronger in English and/or has the stronger personality integrates faster, and this can make the other spouse more isolated, more assertively Polish and keener to return (see example of Monika v. Piotr on next slide)
  • 14.A typically contrasting couple (only one of whom has a ‘strategy’) Anne: Do you buy Polish food? Monika: Mostly not. Piotr: We buy Polish meat. Monika: It depends. If it’s macaroni, or tomato puree, or jams, then more often English. Milk is milk. Piotr: Polish food is nicer. Perhaps English people don’t like it, but I’ve heard that English people buy Polish sausages and cake. Monika: Sometimes we like to try something different, too……. Anne: So do you think you might stay here? I know it’s a hard question to answer. [Laughter all round] Monika: I don’t know, I really don’t know. For the moment. Piotr: We intend to go back sometime. Monika: It also depends on what the children decide to do… Piotr: We intend to be here fifteen years [until their youngest child finished school]. Monika: We ‘intend’, but! ‘But’, there’s always a ‘but’.
  • 15.Integration of some kinds is facilitated by transnational practices Polish friendship networks in the UK and inviting relatives to the UK make extended stays abroad more tolerable Polish community organisations often deliberately try to build bridges into the receiving society Fairly frequent visits to Poland offer contrasts to life in the UK and help consolidate feelings that ‘home’ is in the UK
  • 16.Integration is partly determined by opportunities in the UK, most importantly the (non)-availability of suitable language classes, and also by attitudes brought from Poland Security of employment is especially prized: integration into the labour market is often identified with employment in public sector/big company Families put down roots in a specific locality and can be reluctant to migrate internally within the UK (as they were within Poland). However, some UK localities are perceived as more family-friendly than others. Poles are often very pessimistic about economic prospects in their specific places of origin in Poland.
  • 17.Polish return migration: myths and statistics (in 1000s) Migrants from Poland to UK (purple) and UK to Poland (yellow) Intending to stay at least one year Source: Warsaw University Centre of Migration Research, Biuletyn Migracyjny, December 2011, based on ONS data
  • 18.Return motives and consequences (Polish survey data) ‘Positive changes in Poland’ the least frequent reason for return (1.4%) (Kierunek Malopolska, p. 96) By contrast, return is predominantly for emotional reasons or because enough money has been accumulated abroad for a particular project Unemployment is higher among returnees than among the general population Most Polish returnees are prepared to consider or are actively planning another trip abroad
  • 19.My interview data: who does ‘settle’ in Poland? Overwhelming importance of family ties Although big cities (only) offer opportunities to young graduates, even people doing interesting and by Polish standards well-paid jobs are tempted to leave Poland again if they don’t have partners/children Almost everyone complains about working conditions and salaries in Poland
  • 20.Why do ‘double returnees’ feel a need to settle and pursue more active integration strategies when they go back abroad? Emotional reaction: strong sense of disillusionment with Poland Desire for ‘stabilisation’ – especially among certain age groups/people at particular life stages Feeling that they need to take more control over their own lives cf. drift on first trip to UK
  • 21.Post-2004 20-somethings now want to settle ‘One thing I learned from moving back from Ireland to Poland is that now I really want to stay in one place… This time I know that if I stay I take this decision I want to settle down. So I will not be leaving after another four years. I will not make a decision to move back to Poland or somewhere else.’ Sara, interviewed in Warsaw, on brink of returning to Ireland ‘If I leave now, that’s going to be for good… I’m 30 now – I want to settle down somewhere and I don’t think Poland is the place.’ Adam, interviewed in Poznań, had returned from Ireland, hoping to move to New Zealand
  • 22.Parents of small children cannot keep taking them back and forward ‘Definitely we’ll be in Bristol for a long, long time because, after all, children can’t keep chopping and changing … ‘ Joanna, after her failed return to Poland
  • 23.Abandoning some types of transnational practice in order to enhance ease of settlement in the UK Interviewees on first stay in UK Interviewees after return to UK Transnationalism Transnationalism speak Polish at home, celebrate festivals speak Polish at home, celebrate festivals regular communication with family in Poland regular communication with family in Poland Bridge-burning save UK earnings spend UK earnings purchase/build property in Poland sell property in Poland often return to Poland don’t return much to Poland, instead invite relatives to visit or live in UK Integration migrant-sector employment integrated into regular labour market watch Polish TV watch English-language TV aspire to buy housing in UK etc.
  • 24.Preferring to stop ‘feeling’ transnational ‘The first time we came we completely vegetated. We were only saving up money, thinking about going back to Poland, it was simply like we were wearing blinkers, Poland, Poland, Poland… Now we live quite differently. For the first time I feel I can breathe, we can plan outings, it’s completely different… Now our thoughts aren’t centred on Poland, we’re living here in England’ Ewa, Bath
  • 25. Judyta: Before, we weren’t completely sure whether we wanted to be here [Bristol], or there. We didn’t invest in life here. Dariusz: We just wanted to get through the time. But now we’re here long term, 30 years for a mortgage, Nicola needs to get her education. Judyta: We’re sure that we’re here, and not in Poland.
  • 26.Conclusions Many families are abandoning the strategy of solo parent migration to the West in favour of setting up households in the UK However, in the UK the families interviewed often lacked a single family strategy and family members were integrating differently Many interviewees were rather pessimistic about their integration prospects, contrasting themselves with husbands or children Migrants who experiment with return to Poland often come back to the West This can galvanise them into pursuing more active integration strategies
  • 27.Sources for statistics on potential for return abroad Frelak, J. and Roguska, B. (2008) ‘Powroty do Polski: Wyniki badań’. Warsaw: ISP http://www.isp Iglicka, K. (2010) Powroty Polaków po 2004 roku: w pętli pułapki migracji. Warsaw: Scholar. Kierunek Małopolska: Powroty z migracji zagranicznych do Małopolski. Skala zjawiska, charakterystyka oraz potencjał powracających (2010). Kraków: Centrum Doradztwa Strategicznego. http://www.cds.Krakó Migracja powrotna w województwie dolnośląskim – skala zjawiska, potencjał oraz pogłębiona charakterystyka powracających (2010). Kraków: Centrum Doradztwa Strategicznego. http://www.cds.Krakó Szymańska, J., Ulasiński, C. and Bieńkowska, D. (2012) Zaraz wracam... albo i nie. Skala powrotów, motywacje i strategie życiowe reemigrantów z województwa śląskiego. Kraków: Centrum Doradztwa Strategicznego.