news 04 Feb 13

UK Govt Split on Romanian, Bulgarian Migrants

Official talk of restricting the rights of Bulgarians and Romanians to claim benefits in Britain next year has the governments junior party worried.


Britain’s junior partner in government, the Liberal Democrats, have attacked government plans to restrict the right of Bulgarians and Romanians to claim welfare in the UK next year, once remaining curbs on their right work in Britain expire.

The Liberal Democrats said Britain must act within EU law, which says that Romanians and Bulgarians must be treated like all other EU citizens from next year.

They have voiced alarm after Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokesperson last week said Britain would only welcome the “brightest and the best” from the Balkan states.

“What we don’t welcome is the problem of the abuse of free movement when it comes to the pressures it can put on the UK,” the spokesperson added.

Romanian and Bulgarian MEPs have written to Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, to complain about the mood of hostility they face from British parliamentarians and the media – which has run an ill-tempered  campaign about a likely mass influx of Balkan incomers, coming primarily in search of benefits.

The campaigning group MigrationWatch has predicted that 250,000 will come from both countries over the next five years. One Conservative MP, Philip Hollobone, has claimed that Romanian and Bulgarian communities will treble to 425,000 within two years.
“A wave of hostile statements since the beginning of the year aims to stigmatise these citizens as second-class Europeans who pose a threat to the social systems just because they want to exercise their basic rights to free movement and work,” the MEPs wrote.

Britain’s Conservative-led government has done nothing to counter the alarmist talk, fearing being considered “soft” on the sensitive issue of immigration.

Instead, officials are mooting plans to conduct a negative media campaign in both countries, stressing the disadvantages of moving to Britain.

Anti-immigration activists in Britain have made much of the fact that the last Labour government got the figures very wrong, when it suggested that only a few thousand Poles would move to the UK once Poland joined the EU.

Instead, almost 270,000 Poles arrived in the first two years and at least half a million now live there. Poles are now the biggest foreign language group in the UK.

Most are well integrated and have jobs – but complaints linger on about pressures on schools and communities, while some maintain that Poles have taken jobs that might otherwise have gone to Britons.

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