War in Europe is Dividing States Through Protectionist Sentiment (again)

By: Roan Szucs

Edited by: Constanza Leautaud Grajales

As the War in Ukraine trots on with no feasible resolution in sight, Ukrainians continue to seek  refuge in surrounding states. This inflicts an unprecedented strain onto the sociopolitical and economic systems of those accepting the most refugees, provoking both polarization and concerning degrees of protectionism. The war is causing states accepting the most refugees to lean toward hate; not toward those behind the war, but the refugees fleeing.  

Out of the 5.8 million refugees from Ukraine reported in Europe, Poland alone has accepted over  959 000. The sociopolitical ecosystem in Poland is beginning to respond to the mass entry of  those seeking refuge, with a survey released in August displaying that the number of Poles who support allowing refugees from Ukraine has fallen to 69% from 91% just after the war started… a quarter are against, compared to just 4% in early 2022. 

Evidently, there is a descent of support for refugee allowance among the Polish citizenry, with  social services being exhausted, labour markets overwhelmed, and more complications on the  horizon. As sociopolitical institutions continue to become more overwhelmed, dropping support  amongst the Poles began a shift toward more hate-based sentiments. These sentiments have and  continue to be weaponized by various political leaders, with internal polarization, partisanship,  and protectionist sentiment within Poland following suit. Rafal Pankowski, the head of “Never  Again”, a Polish anti-racism organization, has expressed that for the majority of the war, Polish support for Ukrainian refugees was felt across the political spectrum… However, Pankowski has been surprised by a shift in rhetoric over recent months among the right-wing parties to include  anti-Ukrainian sentiments. 

The mass acceptance of refugees into Poland is beginning to see, as displayed above, not a  concern for an overwhelmed socio-political infrastructure (although this is part of the manifestation),  but an advancing anti-Ukrainian rhetoric amongst the Poles.  

Predictably, this hateful rhetoric sparked by Russian invasion was successfully weaponized by  incumbent and oppositional political parties, increasing the grounds for partisanship, intensifying  polarization, creating possibly the most fertile breeding ground for Polish protectionism in  decades, manifesting in an overall increase in hate towards Ukrainians seeking asylum. 

To combat these hateful sentiments, complications that accompany immigration en masse into  any state must be addressed; with the amplification of nationalist-protectionist disdain towards  Ukrainians being stopped in its tracks to avoid further division in Poland. 

For mass-refugee-accepting states such as Poland to address their growing protectionist-disdain  for Ukrainians, there first must be clarity on the sociopolitical areas most affected by the entry of  refugees. The most notable areas in need of addressing include protectionist attitudes spread  through disinformation; labour market control; language barriers; child support and  accommodation; and housing.  

Addressing concerns of protectionist attitudes spread through disinformation, multinational  professional services network Deloitte proposes the combat of disinformation campaigns through preparing set information materials for all key stakeholders, as well as conducting information  campaigns concerning the benefits of refugee integration for the Polish general public. With  disinformation combatted effectively, the Poles can tackle matters of labour market control  (through federal collaboration with businesses for effective onboarding), language barriers (by  the creation of a support program through which immigrants can learn Polish), child support  (providing access to preschool and school for refugee children), and housing (accelerating the  building construction process to increase the availability of housing).

When the disinformation-fueled anti-Ukrainian sentiments within states such as Poland are  addressed (through information campaigns or otherwise), a more productive environment is  created to tackle the sociopolitical implications of accepting refugees en masse. 

With disinformation fueling protectionism immobilized, the solutions for sociopolitical issues  (labour market control, language barriers, child support, and housing) stemming from wartime  migration can be addressed through logical means, benefiting both the host-state, and the  refugees entering.


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Image source:

Silar. (2022). Ukrainian refugees offered meals, clothes, shelter in Kraków. Wikimedia Commons. Retrieved October 2023, from https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:02022_0202-001_Ukrainian_refugees_offered_meals,_clothes,_shelter_in_Krak%C3%B3w.jpg