Regional and local initiatives
Several noteworthy regional and local initiatives have been introduced by local
governments, NGOs or private companies (Fialkowska and Szczepanski, 2012; see also Table 5.6):
- • Return, a programme run by the Barka Foundation (Polish NGO based in London), was among the first initiatives targeting Polish migrants abroad. The programme, launched in 2007, targeted Polish emigrants in extreme difficulty (mostly homeless people and addicts). The idea was to provide transportation to Poland and participation in reintegration programmes. According to data provided by the Barka Foundation, so far, about 900 migrants have returned from the United Kingdom to Poland for social rehabilitation, detoxification, and employment programmes. No data is available on their further reintegration.
- • To return and what next? (Wrocic i со dalej) was a programme active between 2007 and 2009, launched by the Local Labour Office and Agency of Regional Development in Bilgoraj. The programme’s objective was to create local infrastructure by providing training and assistance for young people intending to start their own business locally. Several local NGOs were actively engaged.
- • Opolskie voivodship - here I stay (Opolskie - tutaj zostaj§) is a programme initiated in 2008 by the self-government of the Opolskie voivodship and the Regional Labour Office in Opole. The main goals were to increase work and educational opportunities in the region and encourage the return of people working abroad. Target groups were graduates, unemployed persons and persons residing and working abroad (mostly in the United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands).
- • ReturntoPoland.pl (Wracajdopolski.pl) was launched in the third quarter of 2007 by the Polish branch of HAYES (an international human resources company) in co-operation with the Polish-British Chamber of Commerce and the Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Policy (the programme is not active at the moment). The programme’s main objective was to address the shortages of skilled workers on the Polish labour market. Its main target group was therefore Poles working abroad in the IT, banking and finance sectors. HAYES played a major role in this programme, being responsible for information and training activities abroad as well as upon return.
- • The 12 cities. To go back, but where to? (12 miast. Wracac, ale dokqd?), introduced in 2009 by Poland Street (a London-based Polish diaspora organisation), was one of the most ambitious initiatives to encourage return, drawing much media attention. Twelve Polish cities were to be promoted in London through monthly presentations covering different aspects relevant to return migration, such as potential for individual development, educational and labour market opportunities and business opportunities. Meetings were open to the public and aroused much interest in the United Kingdom. Unfortunately, the programme was abandoned shortly after its inception due to the deteriorating economic situation in Poland.
- • Become your own boss - stay in Poland (Zostah w Polsce - swoim szefem) was a programme launched in 2010 by the Warsaw Municipality in co-operation with the Higher School of Finance and Management in Warsaw. The aim was to encourage return migrants and Polish emigrants abroad to establish innovative enterprises, in the Mazowieckie region. Activities included training and the preparation of individual business plans, grants and donations covering six months of operating costs.
The above initiatives suffer from a number of shortcomings. First, only few of them
- (including the governmental programme Have you got a PLan to return? launched in
- 2008) could be described as evidence-based programmes, having clear assumptions, aims and objectives. This was partially due to a limited knowledge of Polish migration in general and of returnees in particular. Second, in most cases the evaluation criteria of the initiatives in question remain unknown or have been formulated in a very general way, making assessment difficult. In addition, as in the case of “The 12 cities” programme, initial plans were often disrupted by the economic downturn. Changes in economic conditions affecting both by migrants and institutions/organisations may be a partially responsible for the fact that most of the programmes are no longer active. Third, the need under Polish law, to avoid discrimination against Polish non-migrants is probably the reason why most programmes concentrate on providing information to returnees and Polish migrants abroad, or on training, with a special focus on self-employment. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it may be argued that, as with integration programmes targeting immigrants, reintegration programmes for returnees should above all be grounded in an efficient labour market support system. Unfortunately, however, in Poland - as in many other sending countries - the general labour market support system is highly inefficient.