New research carried out for the British Embassy suggests that the UK Government’s restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians working in the UK are encouraging them to stay and bring their families, according to The Guardian this week.
The unpublished survey of Romanians who have migrated to the UK reveals how Britain’s policy to restrict migrants who want to work is conflicting with its aims of controlling immigration.
The report appears to conclude that by making it more difficult for Romanians and Bulgarians to reach their financial targets the government merely delays their return home, analysis conducted in Romania and given to the British embassy reveals.
Under the current 7 year transitional work restrictions, only highly skilled, skilled workers on work permits, students on yellow cards, Au Pairs and certain seasonal agricultural workers can work legally on an employed basis in the UK.
A number of MPs and London’s Mayor, Boris Johnson, are calling for these curbs on full free movement of labour, due to be lifted in January 2014, to be extended.
But research by the International Agency for Source Country Information requested by the British embassy, and seen by the Observer, suggests the current restrictions are working against Britain’s intended policy goal.
Over half (58%) of those surveyed said their primary condition for returning to Romania was having achieved their savings or pension aspirations or to start a business.
Compared to other migrant groups, a low proportion (47%) said they send money back to relatives in Romania, while more than two thirds (68%) said they regularly saved. The average amount saved was £945 a month. Romanians in the UK want to save about £85,000 before they would consider returning home.
Nicolaas de Zwager, founder and director of the research body, who analysed the results for the British embassy in Romania, said: “The average household in Romania is already saving almost €12,000 annually, that’s 42% of household income. That tells you that these migrants have no interest in becoming little Englishmen,” because their aim is principally to save money. “It’s painful to save €12,000 a year on an income of €29,000 and any block we put up to stop them from reaching their migration goal simply delays their return.
“If I am a Romanian migrant in the UK working in the black economy and I am there for two years, I am doing OK but not great. It is taking a long time to reach my goal so I am incentivised to bring my wife and kids over. The policy is contrary to the interests of the UK.
“Now, if I bring my wife and kids over I am thinking about social security, putting my kids into school. This is where the problem starts.”
De Zwager, a former United Nations consultant and director for the International Centre for Migration Policy Development, said it was myth that migrants to the UK wanted to send all their money back home. “Most English people think: I live in England because it is a beautiful place to live so everybody else wants to live in England. But this is not the case. They are there to save, and it is in the interests of the migrant to send back as little as possible. We should stop talking about money being sent back. There is very little impact on the UK by that.
“We need to start talking about how we can help migrants achieve their financial targets and get them home. Then you have successful migration that develops Romania and stops the long term migration to the UK.”
Last week Immigration Matters revealed that a British Member of Parliament called for child benefit to be withheld from those who are not resident in the UK and said there should be changes to tax credits for immigrants.
There is also concern about Government plans to restrict access to the NHS to some Romanians and Bulgarians.
UK Immigration Minister Mark Harper was questioned on the issue by Conservative MPs in the Commons on Monday, many of whom fear a “surge” in EU migration.
Bury St Edmunds MP David Ruffley said Britain should consider taking new powers to curb “benefit tourism undertaken by Romanians and Bulgarians”. He said such “welfare tourism” added to British public spending rather than reduced it.
And Basildon and Billericay MP John Baron said the fact the national minimum wage in the UK was “five or six times” higher than in Bulgaria and Romania could fuel a “surge” in mass migration.
Harper told his Conservative backbenches that the government had not made “speculative projections” about how many Romanians and Bulgarians would want to move to the UK as this could not be done with any degree of accuracy.
“We want to make sure when people look at access to our benefits and our services no one thinks we are a soft touch,” he said.
However, earlier this month leading politicians from both Romania and Bulgaria said Britain was not first choice for their citizens who wished to move.
De Zwager said he feared that politics was getting in the way of an effective British immigration policy.
The survey results reveal what immigration professionals already know: The vast majority of migrants come to the UK to work hard and save, not to claim benefits.
Romanians and Bulgarians are able to find one or even two jobs in the UK, while unemployed locals claim there is no work.
Restrictions on other groups are also having the opposite effect and are encouraging overstaying. Students whose college has been closed down are often unable to move to a new institution due to visa restrictions.
Having just lost most of their money, they are unable to meet the financial requirements all over again in order to apply for a NEW visa (despite the fact that they are already in the UK on a student visa) and cannot transfer to another college or university.
The UK Border Agency simply wants them to leave the country and take their business elsewhere, but many have lost everything and cannot go home in shame empty handed.
The only choice for some overseas students is to overstay their student visas and try to recover some of the lost money by working illegally. The more desperate try ‘back door’ methods of staying such as sham marriages or paying fake advisers thousands of pounds for dodgy Tier 1 Entrepreneur visas or Tier 2 working visas.
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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.
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