A Polish MP is living as a migrant in London, looking for a job and a flat and surviving on £100 a week in an attempt to see why so many Poles prefer Britain to their homeland.
Following in the footsteps of hundreds of thousands of his compatriots, Artur Debski arrived at the weekend on a low-cost airline, with only a vague offer of a roof over his head “from a Serbian girl in Newham” he met via Facebook.
Mr Debski told The Telegraph before leaving home: “I don’t know what I’m going to do there. I’m 45 years old and my English isn’t great. I’ll have to work with my hands, in a kitchen, perhaps, or in a shop.”
He aims to find out what attracts so many Poles to Britain despite the fact that their country has one of the EU’s most successful economies.
Since the central European country joined the EU in 2004, more than a million Polish nationals are thought to have moved to Britain. Around 70% of younger members of the population consider emigrating, surveys suggest.
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“It’s dangerous for Poland that so many of our young people are thinking about leaving,” said Mr Debski, an MP from Your Movement, a liberal opposition party. “I want to see why the systems in Britain are working and why they’re not in Poland. I want to see why people in Britain are happy and we Poles are not.
“We need to tell Poland and our government what works in the UK, and bring these things to Poland.”
A poll by the market research company Ipsos has indicated that 72% of Poles living in the UK intend to stay as they are putting down roots, having children and taking out mortgages.
The same survey found that as many as 40% are thinking of applying for British citizenship, while new figures from Poland’s National Bank revealed that expatriate Polish people are sending less money home to family members as they establish new lives in their adopted homeland.
To get an authentic feel for what it is like for one of his countrymen arriving to start a new life in Britain, Mr Debski plans to live on a budget of no more than £100 a week. He is planning to present himself for work at a job centre if he is unable to find employment on the Polish expat grapevine.
“I will tell them the truth about my background because you have to, but it will be interesting to see the system,” he said. “In Poland job centres cost a lot of money but don’t provide good value. I’ve heard that British ones are much more efficient.”
The MP’s unusual plan has raised a few eyebrows in Poland, and drawn some criticism from political commentators.
“I understand from this that he must be bored to death in parliament and he needs some adventure,” said Ewa Winnicka, a journalist and author who has written extensively about the great wave of Polish migration to the UK.
“This is nothing more than a PR stunt for his party,” she added. “If Mr Debski really wants to learn about how it all works in the UK he should read some serious studies on the subject. But then again, that is not so attractive to the media.”
But the MP dismisses such criticism. “I’ve thought about this, but for me it’s more important to learn what the British are doing right,” he said.
He added that he will write a report on his cultural and financial experiences in London for his party bosses when he returns home.