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Are Romanians and Eastern European migrants victims of racism in the UK? | Immigration Matters

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Figures suggest that since 2004, around 1.9 million Eastern Europeans have migrated to the UK, and the numbers could be higher as many do not register with any authority. 

New research, led by academics at the University of Bristol, has examined how current East European migration to the UK has been ‘racialised’ in immigration policy and tabloid journalism, providing the first insights into how racism is affecting migrants’ experiences of work and life in the UK.

In an 18-month project, published in the journal Sociology, led by Dr Jon Fox,Senior Lecturer from the University’s School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, researchers explored questions of racism surrounding Hungarian and Romanian migration to the UK.

The evidence to date from the UK suggests that shared ‘whiteness’ offers few protections against racism. Like earlier generations of Irish migrants to the UK and US, East European Jews a century ago, and more recently East European Roma, this new generation of East European migrant workers has been subjected to various forms of racism, racial discrimination, and racial stigmatisation.

This is not the crude racisms of epithets and insults; rather, it is the racialisation of innuendo and inference.

Dr Fox, lead author of the study, said: “Our analyses found that shared whiteness between migrant and majority has not exempted these migrants from the sorts of racialisation found in other migrations.”  The study examined immigration policy and the tabloid media for evidence of different forms of racialisation.

“Hungarians [who like Poles were not subject to immigration control] have benefited from an immigration policy that whilst motivated by economic considerations, was underlined by racialised preferences.

Romanians, in contrast, were subjected to strict immigration controls on working, not because they didn’t match the preferred racial profile of migrants, but because concern over their numbers trumped both economic and racialised rationales for letting in more migrants.

“While immigration controls against Romanians were not racially motivated, they did produce racialised effects. Romanians, as well as fellow A2 EU members Bulgaria, were symbolically stripped of their whiteness by an immigration policy that refused to recognise them as full Europeans with associated rights.”

In the tabloid media, in contrast, it was the Romanians who received the bulk of (negative) attention.  This is because Romanians, unlike Hungarians, stepped into an unfolding narrative of stigmatisation that reached back to post-Ceauşescu images of AIDS babies, supposedly fraudulent asylum claims, and a host of unsavoury activities ranging from begging and prostitution to petty theft and smuggling.  Associations with the Roma and Gypsy/Travellers in the UK cemented their negative reputation in the tabloid press’ handling of the current migrations.

The study’s findings show how two cohorts of migrants, neighbours in East Europe and phenotypically indistinguishable from one another (and indeed from a white British majority), are dramatically lightened and darkened by immigration policy and the tabloid media.

Dr Fox added: “Our analyses reveal how immigration policy and the tabloid media have contributed to the whitening and darkening of Hungarian and Romanian migrants. Immigration policy whitened Hungarian migrants; the tabloid media darkened Romanian migrants.”

The study, entitled ‘The racialisation of the new European migration to the UK’, was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Paper: ‘The racialization of the new European migration to the UK’, published in the journal Sociology: DOI:10.1177/0038038511425558 by Jon E Fox, Laura Moroṣanu and Eszter Szilassy at the University of Bristol.

UK work restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian nationals, were extended until the end of 2013, which means they still need permission to work.

Bulgarians and Romanians can enter the UK and stay for up to 90 days, but cannot work without a registration card commonly known as yellow or purple cards.

They can also become self employed or remain as a ‘self sufficient’ person who has the means to stay in Britain without recourse to public funds or the need to work.

The restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians were put in place in order to prevent a repeat of the previous influx of millions of EU migrants after the earlier expansion in 2004.

Whilst the government cannot stop Bulgarians and Romanians from coming to the UK many feel that the long waiting times to obtain a yellow card are acting as a deterrent.

The restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians were put in place in order to prevent a repeat of the previous influx of millions of EU migrants after the earlier expansion in 2004.

Whilst the government cannot stop Bulgarians and Romanians from coming to the UK many feel that the long waiting times to obtain a yellow card are acting as a deterrent.

You can apply for the same day service at Croydon, but appointments are limited to just seven per day.

Joanna, a student administrator at Majestic College, which has helped hundreds of Bulgarian and Romanian students come to the UK to study and work on NVQ vocational courses, said the rules are putting applicants off from coming to the UK.

‘Bulgarian and Romanian Students can study and work full time by taking an NVQ course and applying for a yellow card permit. However, in order to apply for the yellow card, you should have started the course and be living in the UK.

‘You also need to have a work placement with an employer which we arrange through the college, but cannot start working until you receive the yellow card.

‘You can apply for the same day service at Croydon, but appointments are limited to just seven per day.’

With postal applications now taking up to six months, during which time the student must pay tuition fees, support themselves and pay for Comprehensive Sickness Insurance cover, it is no wonder that many give up or work illegally on a so called ‘self employed’ basis.

See also:

New Government funded courses available for Bulgarian and Romanian EU students

Illegal workers arrested at London 2012 Olympics for immigration offences

Visa overstayers will be refused under new UK Immigration Rules

Parliament take emergency action to save immigration system after court says it has been operating illegally since 2008

How Romanians and Bulgarians working illegally without Yellow Card or papers can legalise their status in the UK

European Commission warning to UK on Free Movement rights and Comprehensive Sickness Insurance remains unanswered

If you need any immigration advice or are worried about the new immigration rules or need help with Sponsorship or Tier 2, Tier 4, applying for university if your college has closed down, Visa, ILR, Settlement, Citizenship, Dependant Visa or an appeal against a UK Border Agency or British Embassy refusal, or if you have been waiting for a reply from the Home Office for longer than a year, please email: 

info@immigrationmatters.co.uk or visit www.immigrationmatters.co.uk for free immigration news updates.

Majestic College offer special packages for EU students. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians.

For more information call Joanna on 0208 207 1020 or email info@majesticcollege.org

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5 Responses to “Are Romanians and Eastern European migrants victims of racism in the UK?”
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  1. […] Are Romanians and Eastern European migrants victims of racism in the UK? […]

  2. […] tax can be as high as €1,800 (£1,420) per worker, restricting access for Romanians and Bulgarians to the French labour […]

  3. […] Are Romanians and Eastern European migrants victims of racism in the UK? […]

  4. That’s alright. This movement is only making us even MORE ambitious and driven to succeed.

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