The new right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government, elected in October, has been vocal in its opposition to taking in refugees and critical of the obligatory EU allocation system. Many Poles have even taken to the streets to participate in anti-refugee marches, Jo Harper wrote in an article titled "Poles fear jihad through the backdoor" published by Deutsche Welle on Wednesday.
Gavin Rae, a sociologist at the Kozminski University in Warsaw, says the antipathy to refugees is strongest among the young, and is a largely the result of a drip feed of frightening media images and the rhetoric of the ruling party. "Added to this, Poland's place in the world has never been very stable and anything that seems to upset the geopolitical status quo tends to frighten people here. Borders matter."
"The ruling party has talked about disease being carried into Poland by the refugees and there have also been suggestions that some of those entering Europe are jihadists, with all of us aware of all that that potentially implies," Rae says.
Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said in November that Syrian refugees arriving in Europe should form an army that could be sent back to liberate their home country, "instead of drinking coffee in the cafes of Berlin while western soldiers face [IS]."
"It's hardly a surprise – added to the shift to the right in Poland – that many young people have identified Islam as a threat, despite the lack of Muslims here," Rae says, commenting that Poland is still a place where anti-Semitism persists "without Jews … It is more about the lack of a strong democratic tradition. The new 'Other' is Muslims," he says.