The BBC reports that the British Government’s plans to cope with a huge increase in immigration from Romania and Bulgaria next year “border on the farcical,” according to a Labour MP.
The Prime Minister’s office is looking at options amid MPs’ concerns about the impact of temporary controls lapsing at the end of this year.
But MP Keith Vaz said trying to discourage people from coming to the UK would be “counterproductive”.
Vaz was responding to reports negative adverts about the UK were among suggestions being considered.
The idea potential migrants could be deterred by references to the downsides of British life, such as the amount of rain, emerged over the weekend.
Communities Secretary Eric Pickles told ITV News that the UK did not wish to portray itself as “anything other than a very pleasant place to be” but migrant workers had to have “sensible expectations” when they arrived.
Following the gross miscalculation over the previous EU expansion from A8 countries, the Labour last Government implemented 7 year transitional controls on full free movement of labour (UK work restrictions) on migrants from Bulgaria and Romania when the two countries joined the European Union in 2007.
The Government has said it cannot, under EU law, keep the limits in place any longer.
But Ministers are coming under increasing pressure to act, from MPs concerned about the effect of the expected increase in arrivals on public services, employment and pledge to cut net migration.
According to newspaper reports, Downing Street is considering restricting access to public services for future migrants, as one of a number of potential responses.
According to The Financial Times, options being considered included asking immigrants who had not found a job within three months or did not have necessary funds to support themselves for six months to leave.
Downing Street said it was is considering all options open to it, but a spokesman stressed there was a “clear legal framework” underpinning guarantees on the free movement of people within the European Union and “we have to operate within that”.
The spokesman played down suggestions Britain might try to deter Bulgarian and Romanian arrivals by launching an advertising campaign in those countries stressing the negative aspects of life in the UK, including the weather.
But Mr Vaz, Chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said any suggestion of spending money on “advertisements and propaganda trying to stop Romanian and Bulgarians coming to Britain borders on the farcical”.
“On the one hand, the Home Office doesn’t want them in but on the other hand, the Minister for Europe is saying there is freedom of movement,” he said.
“The government is in danger of actually encouraging more people to come.”
“These kinds of tactics have been used in the past and been found to be counterproductive.”
In the seventies, Ugandan immigrants of Indian origin with ancestral links to Britain were kicked out of the country by Idi Amin. Vaz’s own Leicester City Council took out advertisements in newspapers deterring people from coming to the city saying “we’re full”.
The anti-immigration campaign had the opposite effect, actually attracting people to the city they had previously never heard of!
Mr Vaz said the question of whether foreign workers should have guaranteed access to public services, including the NHS, should be looked at, but warned against “singling out” workers from individual countries.
“Ministers would be better off working with their Romanian and Bulgarian counterparts and the EU to address the reasons migrants want to come here in the first place.”
Ministers have warned against “scare stories” about a potential surge in numbers, but officials had failed to come up with an estimate of the number of arrivals expected, despite repeated requests.
The think tank Migration Watch, which supports tighter immigration controls, has said about 50,000 people from Romania and Bulgaria will come to the UK each year until 2019 and that this will have “significant consequences” for housing and jobs.
The Government’s own Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) says there is evidence Bulgarians would move to Britain because of its stronger economy, and it is “plausible” Romanians would come for the same reasons.
Bulgarians and Romanians have been able to come to the UK as self sufficient migrants, self-employed persons starting a business, seasonal workers, Au Pairs or as students (who are allowed to work), provided they do not seek benefits or any other employment.
However, it is common knowledge that, like other Europeans, many Romanians and Bulgarians are able to access benefits and free NHS healthcare for themselves and their family members, despite being asked to take out private medical insurance cover.
When work restrictions end, Bulgarian and Romanians who want to work in the UK will have the same rights as foreign nationals from the other 24 EU nations, such as Poland from which an estimated half a million migrants have settled here.
Speaking in the Commons on Monday, Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said ministers were “utterly opposed” to European Commission proposals which he claimed would allow future migrants – including those from Bulgaria and Romania – to claim benefits on “day one” after arriving.
But a spokesman for the European Commission described his claims as “total tosh” and said EU nations were not obliged to do so unless certain residency tests are met. Source: BBC.
Earlier this month a British Member of Parliament, Stewart Jackson, called for a limit on immigration from the EU and a ‘variation’ on the free movement directive prior to millions of Romanians and Bulgarians being given to work in the UK.
Jackson said there had been “no proper analysis” of the figures about people from those Romania and Bulgarians who are about to gain more rights allowing them to live and work in the UK. He wants the UK Government to vary the terms of the free movement directive, as opposed to withdrawing from it altogether.
Prime Minister David Cameron has also called for a renegotiation of Britain’s terms of membership of the EU.
Many EU countries, such as Greece, Spain, Italy and France already have high unemployment and the UK benefit system is known worldwide for its generosity and incompetent controls.
Croatia joins the European Union (EU) on 1 July 2013 and the UK will introduce transitional arrangements to restrict Croatian nationals’ from full access to the UK labour market.
EEA nationals are normally allowed to enter and stay in the UK for for a period not exceeding three months unless other conditions are met, for instance if they exercise ‘treaty rights’ to work, study or declare themselves as ’self sufficient’.
However, most people ignore this rule or do not realise it exists, and the UK Border Agency (UKBA) do not pursue EEA national ‘overstayers’.
The UKBA website states:
An EEA or Swiss National, has the right to live and work in the UK (known as the ‘right of residence’) under ‘freedom of movement’ rules as long as:
- you are working here (and have obtained permission to work if this is required – for instance if your are Bulgarian or Romanian); or
- you can support yourself and your family in the UK without becoming an unreasonable burden on public funds – self sufficient.
On the subject of comprehensive sickness insurance, the UKBA website adds:
“If you are an EEA national in the UK as a student or as a self-sufficient person, you and your sponsored family members must have comprehensive sickness insurance for the duration of your stay in the UK.
Only Romanian and Bulgarian students wishing to study and work in the UK appear to be forced to take out private medical cover in order to obtain a yellow card permit to work.
Related immigration blogs:
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 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org