Polish bi-national migrants in Northern Ireland -the study of the division into typically Polish and Northern Irish aspects of life
Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work Queen's University Belfast Belfast, United Kingdom
Immediately after Poland joined the European Union in May 2004, Polish nationals were given unrestricted access to the labour markets of the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Sweden. Many Polish migrants who took advantage of the 'open borders' and moved to the countries that abolished work permits were, for the first time in their lives, confronting multicultural societies. At the initial stage of the large wave of migration from Poland after 2004, there was a high level of optimism amongst Polish politicians and media, predicting that those migrants would gain valuable experience when working abroad, and come back to their homeland as cosmopolitan citizens adding to Polish economic and cultural development. The study conducted in Northern Ireland in 2007/2008 consisting of 30 in-depth interviews with Polish immigrants, revealed however, that paradoxically, the experience of migration catalyzed in a large group of Polish workers the strategy of dividing different aspects of everyday life into typically Polish and Northern Irish. Hence, they have not converted themselves into the members of the European society, but instead, they made a large effort in preserving their links to Poland, in some practices simultaneously developing connection to Northern Irish in the others. This type of behavior will, in the forthcoming paper, be termed as bi-national practices, when some activities are aimed at maintaining ties with Poland- inter alia getting a medical treatment in Poland, watching exclusively Polish television and participation in solely Polish cultural events- whilst the others were merely associated with Northern Ireland- mainly those associated with Northern Irish labor market and searching for accommodation in the areas where no other Polish people live. The advancing technology, especially in communications and transport, has an inevitable effect on the enlarging of the spectrum of the service providers for migrants, enabling them to evaluate and chose the most suitable options. However, in the case of Polish immigrants it is interesting to disclose the motives underlying the decisions of the division of different aspects of life into Polish and Northern Irish and that is what the proposed paper will be intending to present.