Wildly exaggerated predictions of an invasion of Romanian and Bulgarian migration to the UK are putting Romanians at risk of racist attacks, the country’s ambassador to London warned.
Dr Ion Jinga said the “inflammatory rhetoric” has left the Romanian community feeling like second-class EU citizens.
In a column published by the Daily Telegraph, the ambassador, who has lived in Britain for five years, dismissed the projected figures, adding that he “highly doubts” there will be any significant increase in the number of Romanians coming to the UK from January.
Work restrictions were imposed on Romanians and Bulgarians in 2005 ahead of both countries joining the EU in 2007, to protect the British labour market. Other EU countries imposed similar curbs.
The restrictions expire next year and, despite Home Secretary Theresa May’s protestations, cannot be extended under EU laws.
Dr Jinga said: “Emotional approaches to this issue are counterproductive. They do not benefit the British public and they do not benefit the Romanian community in the UK either, as there is an increasing sense among the Romanians here that they are being discriminated and treated as second-class EU citizens.
“In extreme cases, inflammatory rhetoric could even lead to acts of racially aggravated assaults against them, as we have witnessed recently a case in Brighton.”
Dr Jinga said “taking into account the near-exhaustion of Romania’s potential to ‘export’ workers and the fact that most of the Romanians who wanted to leave their country in order to work in other Member States, Britain included, have done so since 2007 – because there is no visa requirement, and the possibility to work as self employed was the way to get access to a legal job irrespective of the temporary restrictions – we highly doubt that the lifting of restrictions for Romanian workers, on January 1st 2014, would lead to any significant increase in the number of Romanians coming to the UK”.
In contrast, he believes lifting the restrictions will prevent exploitation of Romanian workers and ensure more efficient tax collection – insisting that Romanians are not a menace to the British economy or society.
He added that there is little reason to believe “alarmist figures” will be reliable following blunders over the Polish estimates.
The Government has resisted calls to provide an estimate on the number of Romanians or Bulgarians it expects to arrive in Britain, but anti-immigration campaign group Migration Watch UK previously said it could be up to 50,000 a year for the first five years.
The group claimed this week that workers from Bulgaria and Romania may be up to ‘nine times better’ off by moving to Britain, assuming they enjoy a take home pay of £543 a week.
EU and EEA national citizens are not actually entitled to live indefinitely in the UK without conforming to certain rules.
Existing rules (though not generally enforced) state that EU citizens can freely travel to the UK or any other EU member state and stay for 3 months before exercising various treaty rights or declaring themselves as self sufficient.
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