News 18 Jan 13

Romania Dismisses British Fears of Influx

Romania's Foreign Minister says British speculation about large numbers of Romanians heading to work in the UK next year has no basis in fact and is all about politics.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

Romania's Foreign Minister, Titus Corlatean, on Thursday said that British talk of a possible mass influx of workers in 2014, after remaining labour restrictions expire, was nothing more than political point-scoring.

“The debate about Romanian and Bulgarian migrants arriving in the United Kingdom in search for jobs and social benefits is just part of the electoral campaign going on there. This is not a fair presentation of this issue,” he said.

“We have to take in consideration that Romania is an EU member, and Romanians have the right to move and work free around the Union," he said.

"Many Romanians are already working legally in the UK, and they contributed to building the new stadium for the 2012 London Olympics, for example,” he added.

Britain's last Labour government in 2005 imposed temporary curbs on Romanian and Bulgarian migration to protect the labour market.

As they are due to expire in December, British newspapers and political parties have already expressed concern about the numbers of incomers expected to come to the UK.

Forecasts published on Thursday by MigrationWatch, a think-tank that supports tight control of migration, suggest around 50,000 migrants from Bulgaria and Romania could head every year to the UK when the remaining labour restrictions end.

MigrationWatch said its data was based on an analysis of the numbers who came from Poland and other Eastern European countries after 2004.

The pressure group also said Britain should make it harder for migrants to access welfare, in order to discourage work-shy migrants from coming.

In an interview with the conservative newspaper, The Daily Telegraph, Romania’s Ambassador to Britain meanwhile dismissed suggestions that masses of Romanians would start arriving in 2014.

Ion Jinga suggested the number would be in the low tens of thousands, possibly as low as 10,000 a year, and nothing like the hundreds of thousands of Poles who came to the UK after 2004.

According to UK statistics, some 57,000 Bulgarians and 79,000 Romanians are already resident in Britain.

The current curbs on Romanian and Bulgarian migration include a so-called accession worker card that requires employers to apply for a work permit on the migrant's behalf. Penalties are imposed on employers who hire nationals without the cards.

Six different types of permits exist, depending on the type of work allocated, with more relaxed criteria for high-skilled professionals.

Other restrictions are age-based. Bulgarians and Romanians who land a job in the UK's food manufacturing sector, for instance, must be between the ages of 18 and 30. Students are also limited to working 20 hours a week.

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