Experiences of Poles deported from the United Kingdom in their contact with the justice system

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Project funded by NCN, carried out from 12 April 2019 to 11 April 2022

General information

The expulsion of “unwanted” migrants is currently one of the key elements of many European Union member states’ policies towards non-citizens. The issue of the UK government retaining (or re-establishing) control over its borders was one of the core issues of the 2016 Brexit referendum. The feeling that the UK government has no control over migration processes is very firmly entrenched in the public consciousness, despite the fact that the authorities have a large number of relevant instruments to deal with this issue, including the exercise of border control, the institutions of refusal of entry, deportation or expulsion. For example, in 2016 alone, the British authorities expelled over 12,000 people and refused entry to a further 175,000.

Among people expelled from the UK, the number of citizens of other EU countries is growing: since the Brexit referendum, it has risen by as much as 20% (year-on-year comparison). Romanians and Poles were in the top ten nationalities of people deported from the UK in 2016 (third and eighth respectively). The total number of citizens of other EU states repatriated to their countries of origin for various reasons in 2017 exceeded 5,300. It is impossible to tell how many of them were Poles who served prison sentences in the UK, as British statistics do not provide detailed information on the reasons for deportation by nationality. However, the number of Poles in British prisons has been growing steadily over the last decade. Currently, they constitute the largest group of so-called “foreign national prisoners.” According to data from March 2018, an average of 802 Poles were in British prisons at any one day. It is not known how many are serving sentences imposed in the UK and how many are awaiting extradition under the EAW. However, it can be speculated that most of them fall into the former category of prisoners who have been convicted of committing an offence in the UK. If this is the case, they are subject to legislation (such as the UK Borders Act 2007 or the Immigration Act 1971) which provides for their cases to be automatically subject to consideration for deportation from the UK once they have served their sentence. The deportation of such foreigners has been one of the priorities of the British government since 2006.

Poles are also extradited on the basis of a European Arrest Warrant issued by Polish authorities searching abroad for people who have committed crimes in Poland and fled from justice (before, during or while serving their sentence). Between 2004 and 2017, Polish courts issued 38,815 EAWs, including 8,337 against people who were in the UK. Of these, the UK authorities recognised and transferred 6,638 persons to Poland (the highest number, 852 persons, in 2013). EAW procedures are not infrequently a source of frustration for those subjected to them, as Polish authorities also issue warrants for fairly trivial and long-standing offences, to mention such cases as exceeding a credit card limit or stealing a wheelbarrow wheel.

Project objectives

The objective of the project is to identify post-deportation and post-extradition experiences in Poland and the UK of Poles who have been removed from the UK as a result of their previous contact with the Polish or British justice system. In particular, the study will focus on two groups:

  1. individuals who were convicted by British courts of committing an offence in the territory of the United Kingdom and then, after serving their prison sentence, deported to Poland following an order of a British court or a decision of the Secretary of State;
  2. people for whom the Polish authorities have sent a European Arrest Warrant (EAW); that is, people who have been extradited from the UK to Poland under special extradition procedures because they have previously committed a crime in Poland.

The study will cover, in particular, the decision-making process in deportation and extradition cases, the issue of preparing individuals for these procedures, and research into the post-deportation and post-extradition experiences of Poles who have been detained in British prisons and subsequently extradited from the UK to Poland. The project will fill a gap in the knowledge about the situation of EU citizens who have been deported or extradited.


This project is part of a body of empirical and qualitative research on the concept of deportation and extradition as a process that affects not only the individual being deported, but also family members, communities, and a number of public institutions. The study also fits well within the framework of researching the UK’s exit from the EU, which may result in legal changes to the deportation and extradition of Polish citizens. Carrying out research at this time and observing the changes and their impact on the situation of Poles in the UK will certainly add to the currency of the project and translate into interest in the findings.