Does Poland’s migration policy explain its lack of terror attacks?

Published: 5th Apr 2019

In brief


Poland has had no terror attacks.


Poland had no recorded terror attacks between 2012 and 2015 according to data from the Global Terrorism Database. There have been at least three terror attacks since.


Poland has a no-migrants policy.


Poland doesn’t have a “no-migrants” policy but has very few foreign-born residents compared to other European countries.

Claim 1 of 2

map of Europe showing Poland free from terrorist attacks has been going viral recently on Facebook.

The text accompanying the image says “Poland has a strict no-migrants policy. Draw your own conclusions.”

The image shows a screenshot of a map of global terror attacks from 2012 to 2015, produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The map uses data from the Global Terrorism Database (GTD), maintained by the University of Maryland.

In this respect the image is accurate for Poland 2012 to 2015. The GTD recorded no incident they’d define as a terrorist attack in Poland between those years. But that is now out of date, and some incidents have been recorded in Poland since then.

Defining terrorism

In the absence of a single international definition of terrorist attacks, the GTD defines them as intentional threats or acts of violence perpetrated by non-state actors (state terrorism is not collected in the database).

Additionally, to be included, at least two of the following three criteria must be present:

  • The act must be aimed at attaining a political, economic, religious, or social goal.
  • There must be evidence of an intention to coerce, intimidate, or convey some other message to a larger audience (or audiences) than the immediate victims.
  • The action must be outside the context of legitimate warfare activities.

There have been three more recent recorded attacks in Poland

The map doesn’t show the most recent GTD, which goes up to the end of 2017, and recorded two terror attacks in Poland in 2016 and one in 2017.

One of the attacks in 2016 was carried out by an anti-migrant terrorist and injured one person.

No group claimed responsibility for the other two attacks, and neither attack resulted in any casualties. 

Does Poland have a no-migrants policy?

It’s not correct to say Poland has a “no-migrants policy” though Poland does have very low foreign migration compared to other EU countries.  

EU citizens have the right to live and work in any other EU country, with some exceptions. As a member of the EU, Poland’s immigration policy includes this freedom of movement.

In 2017, an estimated 77,000 foreign nationals migrated to Poland equivalent to 0.2% of its total population. That level is low by EU standards.

These statistics don’t tell the full story as they only measure migrants who intend to stay in their new country for at least 12 months. Additionally, in recent years, Poland has issued many more "first residence" permits for non-EU citizens seeking residence in Poland for at least three months, primarily Ukrainian nationals.

Nevertheless, Poland still has the lowest foreign-born population relatively speaking in the EU. Just 1.7% of people living in Poland in 2017 were born outside the country compared to, for example, 10% in Italy and 13.4% in the UK.

So while Poland doesn’t have a “no-migrants policy” its population is overwhelmingly Polish-born.

Is there a link between migration and terrorist attacks?

While the post tells the reader to “draw your own conclusion”, the inference is clear—it suggests a causal link between migration and terror attacks.

This link is not proven by the map used in the post, nor the data the map is based on, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, the pattern of low-migration and low-terror is not consistent across all countries. Other countries on the map with very few terror attacks have high levels of migration.

Since 2012, Norway, like Poland, has experienced few terror attacks (one). But unlike Poland, in 2017 Norway had a relatively high foreign-born population (15%) and its foreign immigration level (equivalent to about 0.9% of the Norwegian population in 2017) was above the EU’s average. The same pattern is true of Austria.     

Secondly, the implication that migration leads to terrorism needs to be seen alongside the fact that migrants are often the victims of terror attacks.

For example, Sweden has a relatively high level of foreign immigration among EU countries and 18% of its population in 2017 were migrants. It has also seen far more terror attacks than Poland in recent years. The vast majority of these are terror attacks against refugee housing and asylum centres.

This article is part of our work factchecking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as mixture as one of the claims made is broadly correct and one isn’t.

Update 9 April 2019

Following feedback from readers, we’ve added more information about short-term immigration to Poland (people who move there for under a year) to go alongside the figures we provided for long-term immigration (moving there for at least a year).


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