Polish Migrants returning to Britain

by Fiona Ferbrache

A “new migration system”, identified in Europe since 2004, is associated with the EU enlargement process.  This system identifies patterns of East European migrants moving to western member states.

Polish migrants in the UK are one such example and since 2004, their trajectories have shaped different flows.  Firstly, an influx of Polish migrants into the UK, secondly, a decline in their numbers during and after the economic crisis (Morris, 2008) and now, Migrant Information Source notes “a significant increase” in the number of Polish migrants in Britain again (Day & Hope, 2010).  At the end of 2009, 484,000 Poles were living in Britain, and by the end of June, 2010, this number had risen to 537,000.  The tooing and froing of these patterns reveals how cross-border migration is a constant renegotiation of the decision to move or stay.

Cross-border mobility within the EU is the focus of a forthcoming Area paper by van de Velde and van Naerssen.  These authors formulate a specifically geographical approach based upon people, borders and trajectories, and which can be used to understand Polish migration to the UK.  For example, the ‘border’ component of their approach argues for exploring how borders are perceived as differential opportunities (i.e. the economic advantages of UK employment over Poland) or barriers (i.e. language).  Identifying these borders help geographers to understand how spaces either side are compared and thus how they might be incorporated into migrants’ decisions to move (on) or stay.

Morris, N. (2008) Tide of migration turns as Polish workers return.  The Independent (online).  27 February, 2008

Day, M. & Hope, C. (2010) Polish Migrants are coming back to the UK. 02 October, 2010

van de Velde, M. & van Naerssen, T. (forthcoming) People, borders, trajectories: an approach to cross-border mobility and immobility in and to the European Union. Area. Published online 12 October, 2010

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