Racially motivated attacks against Muslims and Africans in Poland are on the rise.
As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, three students from Turkey and Bulgaria were cursed at by young men on a tram earlier this month in Bydgoszcz, a city of nearly a half-million people in northern Poland. They were told to get out of country because Poland is for Poles.
Also, foreign exchange students in Torun, a student city also in Poland’s north, have come under increasing threat. A young Turk was recently cursed at and badly beaten. Two other students were forced to their knees in a bar and forced to “apologise” for being Muslim and not Christian.
“I am shocked by the lynch atmosphere of this incident,” said Ewa Walusiak-Bednarek, a spokeswoman for the University in Torun. “We have had exchange students for 10 years and this has never happened. Now it’s happened twice this year.”
The university has a tradition of pairing exchange students with their Polish peers, who are known as guardian angels, to “help students from abroad get used to everyday life and understand the country better,” Walusiak-Bednarek said.
“The number of Polish guardian angels has increased from 30 to 110 since these attacks. Nearly all of our 130 foreign exchange students are able to have their own.”
According to DW, Anna Tatar, who keeps track of racist attacks around Poland in her “brown book” for the foundation, which is called “Never Again.” She recorded 400 cases in 2009-2010 and 600 two years later. The count rose to 850 in 2013, according to Police statistics, and it doubled by 2015.
“We have observed a further rise since summer 2015, higher than the official numbers suggest,” she told DW. The racially charged atmosphere stems from the refugee debate during the parliamentary election campaign in fall 2015, she said. Poland has not taken in any refugees, but the numbers entering Europe overall has incensed many Poles, causing it to become a major campaign issue.
“The media have painted the refugees with one, broad brush,” Tatar said.
According to Polish government officials have been noticeably quiet following racially motivated attacks. At times, it plays down the racial motivations that may be behind them. A right-wing demonstration in Bialystok last April called to “hang Jews”. The public prosecutor concluded the incident was repugnant, but not racist.