The Polish League Against Defamation welcomes the statement of the the Norwegian Press Complaints Commission (PFU), where the Council explains that it did not sanction the use of the phrase “Polish concentration camp”, it only accepted the apology of the newspaper that had used it.
The statement issued by the Council is a result of the protest of Polish Internet users organised by the League. They sent close to 40 thousand e-mails in a few days, blocking mailboxes of major Norwegian organisations of journalists.
However, this does not resolve the problem of racist attitudes to Polish people in Norway, where fundamental equality rights are infringed. Polish people are treated worse as employees, they do not receive overtime pay that is due to them, it is difficult for them to find legal employment and they are forced to work illegally.
However, the multiple cases of taking children – Polish citizens – away from Polish families under some excuse are particularly appalling. Barnevernet (Child Protection Authority) uses even the tiniest cultural differences as an excuse, which leads to absurd situations.
According to Barnevernet, hugging a child is sexual harassment, while pulling a milk tooth without a dentist’s knowing about it is treated as child neglect. The conversations with the child are undertaken without the assistance of a psychologist or an interpreter and they are frequently based on assumptions. Barnevernet has committed particularly dramatic deeds, even against children with disabilities.
The League’s Documentation Division believes that this practice is due to the racist and discriminatory attitude of the Norwegians and the Norwegian authorities to Polish citizens.
Polish people are treated as lower-category Europeans who may be degraded and discriminated without any consequences, which is proven by the fact that similar cases are much less frequent with respect to other, non-Slavic ethnicities (minorities) residing in Norway.
It might be suspected that taking Polish children away is intended to denationalize them, to have more citizens of European origin that assimilate easily.
As the Third Republic of Poland has not taken care of Polish citizens living abroad until this time, such racist practices that remind of the German Lebensborn campaign in the Third Reich have not been met with proper resistance.
According to the League’s Documentation Division, racist treatment of Slavic peoples, in particular Polish people in Norway, is a product of the national socialism. During World War II, the Nazi collaborationist government led by Vidikun Quisling took part in anti-Jewish cleansing in their own country, and at least 15,000 Norwegians joined the Norwegian voluntary select divisions of Waffen SS; 6,000 of them participated in the fights, frequently of genocidal nature, in the east of Europe.
The League’s Documentation Division has drawn up a report in the case of probably the most dramatic case of detaining a child – a Polish citizen – by Norwegian authorities in outrageous conditions, which pose a threat to the child’s life.
Ms Teresa Skrętowska from Warsaw has been fighting to gain custody of her only grandson, Jozef (Józio), who has been held by the Norwegian authorities for the past four years.
Józio was born with some disabilities. For the first four years of his life he was rehabilitated at the Institute of Mother and Child in Warsaw with very good results, and received a lot of support from his grandmother. When he was four years old, together with his parents he left for Stavanger, Norway.
Józef’s parents decided to separate due to the hot-headed nature of his father. As time went by, there was a police restraining order issued against Józef’s father, prohibiting him from approaching Józef and his mother, the process of revoking his parental rights also commenced.
However, the true nightmare started in April 2011, when Józef’s mother suddenly died. Józef was eight years old at the time. Even though Ms Teresa filed a request to take over the care of her grandson on the day following her daughter’s death, Barnevernet (Child Protection Authority) granted conditional custody to Józef’s father.
Only two months later, due to improper care provided by his father, Józef was taken away by Barnevernet. Since that time, he was residing either in an orphanage or one foster family after another, without any contact with Polish language and Polish culture, as well as with the Catholic religion. Ms Teresa, who is fighting for the custody of Józef, received the right to see her grandson two times a year for three hours, in the presence of a representative of the authorities. Contacts by phone are made difficult. Any letters and postcards were seized, and Józef is supposed to receive all of them after he comes of age.
In May 2014, after visiting Józef at his foster family’s house, Ms Teresa decided to appeal to Barnevernet once again, yet it was ineffective. Józef was gaunt, incredibly weak, he was living in a room that resembled a cellar with a skylight. There was also a suspicion of sexual harassment.
With the help of one of the NGOs that Ms Teresa asked for help, police got involved. Following the police intervention in July of this year Józef is again living in an orphanage. He is now waiting to be taken in by another foster family, which will probably happen before Christmas.
Due to Józef’s disabilities, the foster family is receiving additional, quite significant funding.
As a result of the “care” provided by the Norwegian authorities, Józef hardly speaks Polish, but he does understand it. He is taken to attend practices of a religious movement (sect).
In May of this year, having exploited all legal measures available in Norway, Ms Teresa submitted a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The full report on Józio is available for downloading at the League’s website
At the moment, there have been over 100 cases of taking children away from Polish families documented in Norway. Over 40 children have been already placed in foster families. There are more such cases, as Barnevernet (Child Protection Authority) does not inform consular authorities about the number of children that are taken away. These actions are against international law.
Barnevernet is infringing not only the Vienna Convention, but also the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Vienna Convention (Article 36) is infringed most frequently, as Barnevernet does not provide information about detaining minors – Polish citizens – and the contacts between the child and the consul are made as difficult as possible. In turn, according to Article 8 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, a child has the right to preserve their name, nationality, family relations, culture and religion of the child’s parents. In line with it, the authorities should look for a foster family among the biological family and the next of kin in Poland. Barnevernet never does so. What is more, during supervised meetings, it is not allowed to speak Polish, and siblings are separated so that the bond and the mother tongue fade. Article 14 of the Convention is infringed, as the bond with the religion the child grew with is broken. Finally, the most fundamental Article 3 of the Convention is broken, according to which the public authorities should act in the best interest of the child. However, Polish citizens are deprived of their right to their identity. It is also worth pointing out that the crime of persecutions as a crime against humanity includes discriminatory acts based on ethnicity or cultural, national origin (The Rome Statute, Article 7(1)).
The Kingdom of Norway is a party to all acts of international law mentioned above.
Therefore, we would like to ask why Polish citizens in Norway are treated in a manner that is an affront to the entire legacy of the western civilization?
Such attitudes are not exercised even for Germans, who reside in Norway in quite some numbers.
As the conduct of the Norwegians is particularly cruel as it concerns defenceless children, we are thus calling the Norwegian authorities to fight such drastic manifestations racism, to respect the Vienna Convention and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to release Józef and all other Polish children – Polish citizens – that had been illegally taken away by Barnevernet.
We intend to take advantage of all available measures to bring Józio back to his family in Poland including the call to boycatt of all Norwegian goods and companies.
The League has drawn up a petition calling the Norwegian authorities to release Józio. You can sign it clicking here