The news that a Bulgarian family of nine targeted Britain’s welfare system and were given a council house just three weeks after arriving here will alarm many people. But is this the norm for EU migrants?
Jobless Rusi Georgiev, 41, headed to the UK with partner Mariana Sabeva, 34, and their seven children after reportedly telling fellow Bulgarians (who do not yet have full free movement rights) he would live on benefits here.
The family set up a camp outside Westminster Cathedral in central London – and were handed accommodation after lodging a claim for asylum with the Home Office.
Last night, critics said it was another example of foreigners taking the British people for “mugs” by milking our lax benefits system.
Tory MP Mark Spencer said: “My constituents are sick to the back teeth with this sort of thing.
“People who work hard and fall on hard times find that getting access to benefits is intolerably long winded. Then they see people coming into this country who have contributed nothing and easily getting handouts. It is morally indefensible.”
Mr Spencer, MP for Sherwood, Notts, added: “People from Bulgaria should not be coming here to claim asylum – it is another EU country.
“This is another problem brought about by our membership of the EU. We should not be being told what to do by Europe.”
Nicholas Soames, Tory MP for Mid Sussex, condemned the housing offer as “unacceptable”.
UK Independence Party Euro-MP Gerard Batten described the family as “parasites”: “We can’t blame the Bulgarians, they are speaking the plain truth.
“Our membership of the European Union means that we are essentially inviting every parasite in the EU to come and take advantage of our housing and benefits system.
“We are the biggest mugs in the world to allow this to happen.
“I have decent, hard-working constituents in London who are losing benefits and cannot get public housing.
“But at the same we have flung our doors open to people who have never paid a penny in taxation to the UK and probably never will.”
Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Ministers must ensure Britain isn’t an easy target for benefit tourism.
“Asylum is not meant for anyone who fancies an easy life at taxpayers’ expense.”
The family arrived in the UK legally, travelling by coach and using European Union passports.
Initially, they were given council emergency accommodation, then set up camp outside Westminster Cathedral. Witnesses said they were living in squalid conditions, sleeping on the ground surrounded by dirty nappies.
Westminster Council then took them off the street because of “safeguarding concerns about the children”. They are now living in accommodation funded by taxpayers while officials process their asylum claim.
A fellow Bulgarian told reporters: “They heard about the benefits here and have come to claim them. They’ve been offered tickets back to Bulgaria by the authorities but they want to stay.
“In Bulgaria they can’t get these benefits. More and more people are going to do this.”
Westminster City Council insisted it was legally obliged to offer the family housing under current benefit rules because of concerns about the children.
Councillor Nickie Aiken, cabinet member for Children, Young People & Community Protection, said: “This kind of case further illustrates the strain that people suddenly arriving in London place on an authority like ours.
“There are nearly 7,000 short-term migrants in Westminster already – and those are only the ones we know about.
“The reality is that groups like this come in every day and, if they have a claim on council services – for example if there are children who need looking after – then we have a legal duty to step in.
“Inaccurate counting in the 2011 census means the city council potentially stands to lose up to £15million because of people who live here but don’t appear in the statistics.
“People who come here and demand to be housed or looked after are just adding to the bill.
“I can totally understand the frustration of Westminster taxpayers that they are paying for people who apparently are here to play the system.” The case emerged a day after Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith attacked benefit tourism.
He told the Commons on Monday: “It is not right for us to end up with a system – other countries agree on this – in which someone can literally arrive here and, only days after, decide they are not working and therefore they are eligible for benefits.
“That would be quite wrong for the British taxpayer.”
Ministers are currently fighting a court battle against European rules insisting that EU migrants are eligible to claim certain welfare benefits as soon as they arrive in the UK.
Recent figures from Whitehall showed that foreigners are now pocketing £2.1billion in UK welfare handouts every year.
A Government report showed that 371,000 people claiming working age benefits were non-British citizens.
Other official figures showed that one in eight of all council houses for young adults are now occupied by foreigners. Source: Daily Express.
The Express focus on stories like this which fuels anti-immigration feelings during a time of economic hardship for many British people.
But the fact is the vast majority of Bulgarian, Romanian and other migrants come to the UK to work or study, not to claim benefits.
For example, this week Immigration Matters reported that Leicester council, which once took out national newspaper advertisements to discourage Indian immigrants from settling in the city, is now planning to publicly thank them for transforming it and the region despite facing racism and other hurdles.
The once shunned Indian community worked hard and prospered over the years, and actually transformed a declining town into a buzzing multicultural haven that is the subject of study by several European towns.It is today seen as one of the major success stories of the Indian immigration and immigrant groups coming to the UK. The mostly educated Indians from Uganda had fled with nothing but literally built an empire in Leicester, with hard work and diligence.
Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007, but unlike previous Eastern European new members its citizens do not have the same rights to work in the UK.
Even though they are EU members, when it comes to employment Bulgarian and Romanian citizens do not have the same rights as other Europeans, for instance from France, Germany, Poland, Slovakia or other A8 Accession countries.
They are free to move around Europe without a visa, but can only work in the UK as employed persons with a work permit or registration card. There are various schemes, such as the seasonal agricultural workers (SAWS) or Au Pair scheme under which Bulgarians and Romanians can apply.
Bulgarians and Romanians are allowed to set up a business, apply for a work permit, study or reside in the UK as a ‘self sufficient’ person, provided they can prove they have enough funds to support themselves.
Romanian and Bulgarians can exercise Article 39 Treaty rights and study vocational or sandwich-type courses, such as QCF (which replaced NVQ’s this year) in Customer Service, or Health and Social Care, which allows them to work full time – as stated on the back of their ‘Yellow’ registration cards.
Employers can legally employ Romanian and Bulgarian workers provided they have a yellow card registration certificate allowing them to work in the UK whilst studying for a British qualification.
After 12 months of continuous legal work they can apply for residence under a so called ‘Blue Card’ registration, which effectively gives them the EEA national rights to reside, work or study in the UK.
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 some applicants off from coming to the UK, although many still want to start a new life here.
‘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.’
UK and six other EU countries have also maintained labour market barriers for workers from Bulgaria and Romania. France and other EU countries are mandated to open their labour markets to Romanians and Bulgarians in January 2014.
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:
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 firstname.lastname@example.org