Polish officers join police patrol in British town after possible hate crime murder

The two Polish officers are being deployed in Harlow for a week to reassure the local people.
The two Polish officers are being deployed in Harlow for a week to reassure the local people. PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Two Polish officers have joined British police in the town of Harlow, where a Polish man was killed in a possible hate crime incident last month, the police said on Thursday (Sept 15).

They are being deployed in the Essex town for a week to reassure local people following a surge in reported attacks against foreigners since Britain's vote to leave the European Union, which was driven in large part by concerns about immigration from within the bloc.

"There are two Polish police officers accompanying our officers. They are wearing police uniforms but they have no police powers, they have no powers of arrest," a spokesman for Essex Police told AFP.

Poland has urged London to protect Poles living in Britain, of whom there were about 831,000 in 2015, following the Brexit vote on June 23.

Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski flew to London along with Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak this month after two Poles were attacked outside a pub in Harlow, north-east of London, on Sept 4.

The assault followed the murder of 40-year-old factory worker Arkadiusz Jozwik, known as Arek, in the same town on August 27.

Six teenagers have been arrested on suspicion of Mr Jozwik's murder and released on bail, although the police have yet to decide whether the incident was a hate crime.

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker referenced the attacks in his annual State of the Union speech on Wednesday, warning that they threatened fundamental European values.

"We Europeans can never accept Polish workers being harassed, beaten up or even murdered on the streets of Harlow," he said in Strasbourg, to applause.

He added: "The free movement of workers is as much a common European value as our fight against discrimination and racism."

Mr Juncker's comments provoked criticism from Harlow MP Robert Halfon, who said he resented the implication that Essex was full of murdering racists.

"The vast majority of people are horrified as to the tragedies that have occurred. Harlow residents and the Polish community have rallied together," he told the BBC.

"So what he has said, rather than help the situation has made things much worse."