I am deeply saddened at the tragic death of Arkadiusz Jozwik and the injury of his friend in a horrific attack that occurred on Saturday. I give my heartfelt sympathy, not just to these men’s families and friends, but to the whole of Harlow’s wonderful Polish community. All murder is evil, but if it is also true, as is being investigated, that this could be a hate crime, then it is all the more disturbing and shocking.
I am proud of the Polish community we have in Harlow. They have opened up some wonderful shops in areas where the high street was otherwise empty and closing down. Their butchers, delicatessens and other shops in the town centre have really helped to regenerate the area for the better. Daniel Kawczynski MP recently held a debate in Parliament on the contribution of Poles to UK society and he kindly read out a submission I sent to him, praising the Polish community in Harlow.
Just a few weeks ago, I went on my second visit to a fantastic weekend Polish school that pays Passmores School in Harlow for use of their facilities to run on Saturdays. I went to the school to hand out the annual end-of-year awards to their students. It was an honour to meet such hard working teachers, students and parents there who contribute so much to our society.
However, it saddened me when someone I met there asked whether they would be allowed back in to the UK if they went back to Poland to visit their family for a holiday in the Summer and to hear others tell me about racist incidents they have had to deal with. I did my best to reassure them that they are welcome here and that nothing would change if they left for a holiday.
On top of these worries they already had, we now have this awful, tragic murder as well.
We should be celebrating the hard work and positive contribution of the migrant communities that greatly benefit our society. I believe it is the responsibility of all those in public life, of politicians, journalists, and anyone with a voice, to stand up and speak out against racism and to promote and celebrate the massive benefits that Polish, and other migrants, give to Harlow and to our country.
I recently wrote to the Polish Ambassador to voice how proud I am of the Polish community in Harlow and he has promised a Diplomatic visit to our town. I have now written to him again to express my condolences at this awful and tragic event and I have contacted the Chief Constable of Essex Police, Stephen Kavanagh, to ask them what measures they are taking to protect our communities, particularly those who are ethnic minorities or migrants and may feel vulnerable to such crime. I hope to meet with the Polish community in Harlow this Saturday to offer any help and support that I am able give.
I am proud to be MP for Harlow and I believe that almost every single person in our town will be horrified at this event. But, we must do more than be horrified. We must actively stand up against racism of any kind. We must welcome Polish and other communities just as we would welcome our best friends and we must all work together to ensure that Harlow remains a kind, decent and tolerant place to live.