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Since March 2022, Daniel Jerke is a doctoral candidate at the University of Vienna. Previously, he worked as a school assistant at a secondary school in Kiel. Jerke did his BA in European Studies with a focus on social sciences at Chemnitz University of Technology, followed by a MA in Migration and Diversity at Kiel University. As a student, Jerke spent one semester respectively at Silesian University in Katowice and Adam Mickewicz University in Poznań. Additionally, he did various placements, e.g. at the German Historical Institute in Warsaw and the street paper “Hempels” in Kiel.
Current Research Project:
Prekäre Privilegien: Polnische Flüchtlinge zwischen Polen, Österreich und Kanada in den langen achtziger Jahren [Precarious Privileges: Polish Refugees between Poland, Austria and Canada in the Long Nineteen-Eighties]
Nowadays, it seems almost forgotten that Polish citizens constituted a major group of refugees in the West from the late seventies to the early nineties. For example, Poles were the biggest group of asylum-seekers in Austria in the nineteen-eighties with up to 50,000 applications. Additionally, several thousands Poles came to Austria using other legal channels and social practises, like overstaying their visa or marrying Austrian citizens. In the long run, however, the vast majority of Poles moved on to oversee destinations, of which Canada was a major destination. In total, more than 100,000 Poles immigrated to Canada between 1980 and the early 1990s.
Despite the obvious differences between Austrian and Canadian society, Polish refugees were in a similar situation in both countries: They were precariously privileged for most of the time. On the one side, Western authorities clearly favoured refugees from the Soviet bloc over refugees or labour migrants from other parts of the world. In the autumn of 1981, the Austrian Ministry of the Interior advised officials to actively look for reasons why Polish claimants should be granted asylum. Two years earlier, Canada had already created a separate legal category for refugees from the Soviet bloc that did not require any proof of political persecution. On the other side, the privileges of Polish refugees were highly precarious due to the dependence on the decisions of state representatives they could hardly influence. That created huge problems for Poles who left their home country in the late 1980s when public opinion in the West had already started to shift. Furthermore, Polish refugees had been facing numerous challenges before despite their advantageous treatment. Although they were mostly young, from an urban background and highly educated, they often ended up doing manual labour.
In his dissertation, Daniel Jerke wants to find out how those precarious privileges were produced by negotiations between various actors. How was the mobility of Polish emigrants negotiated in Austria and Canada in the long 1980s? Which actors took part in these negotiations? What goals did they try to achieve? What means did they use? And last but not least: How did the refugees themselves perceive and influence their own situation? He answers these questions by analysing state records, material from NGOs, reports from both national and Polonia media outlets as well as contemporary research publications.
Polnische Vertragsarbeiter_innen in Karl-Marx-Stadt 1971-1988 [Polish contract workers in Karl-Marx-Stadt 1971-1988], Bachelorarbeit, Abschlussarbeiten am Institut für Europäische Studien (AIES-Online), Nr. 21, Chemnitz 2018.