Bulgarians and Romanians free to work in UK as controls end

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All Bulgarian and Romanian citizens will be free to live and work in the UK after temporary controls in place since 2007 expire on Wednesday.

Ministers have said the restrictions cannot be extended but they are curbing access to benefits and want to tighten rules on freedom of movement in future.

The UK has not released forecasts of migrant numbers but campaigners say up to 50,000 people a year could come.

Romanian officials have said talk of an “invasion” is far-fetched.

Business leaders in London have said firms will benefit from having “access to a larger labour pool” and have warned that the debate about immigration has become “highly politicised”.

Bulgarians and Romanians gained the right to visa-free travel to the UK in 2007, when their countries joined the EU.

But since then, they have been able to work in the UK only if they are self-employed, have a job offer, or are filling specialist posts for which no British worker can be found.

The UK government extended this transitional period, which was due to come to an end in 2012, by a further two years and have insisted that they cannot do so again without breaching their EU Treaty obligations.

‘Pull factor’
However, more than 60 MPs are backing a campaign to extend the restrictions for a further five years, saying the British economy has not sufficiently recovered from the 2008 recession to cope with the change and that it will put pressure on public services and reduce job opportunities for British workers.

Similar work restrictions in place in eight other EU countries also come to an end at the start of 2014.

All Bulgarian and Romanian citizens will be free to live and work in the UK after temporary controls in place since 2007 expire on Wednesday.

Ministers have said the restrictions cannot be extended but they are curbing access to benefits and want to tighten rules on freedom of movement in future.

The UK has not released forecasts of migrant numbers but campaigners say up to 50,000 people a year could come.

Romanian officials have said talk of an “invasion” is far-fetched.

Business leaders in London have said firms will benefit from having “access to a larger labour pool” and have warned that the debate about immigration has become “highly politicised”.

Bulgarians and Romanians gained the right to visa-free travel to the UK in 2007, when their countries joined the EU.

But since then, they have been able to work in the UK only if they are self-employed, have a job offer, or are filling specialist posts for which no British worker can be found.

The UK government extended this transitional period, which was due to come to an end in 2012, by a further two years and have insisted that they cannot do so again without breaching their EU Treaty obligations.

‘Pull factor’
However, more than 60 MPs are backing a campaign to extend the restrictions for a further five years, saying the British economy has not sufficiently recovered from the 2008 recession to cope with the change and that it will put pressure on public services and reduce job opportunities for British workers.

Graphic: Eastern European workers in the UK
Similar work restrictions in place in eight other EU countries also come to an end at the start of 2014.

However, Migration Watch – which campaigns for tighter controls on immigration – has suggested that many of the two million Romanians and Bulgarians currently working in Spain and Italy could now be tempted to come to the UK by the higher wages on offer and access to in-work benefits such as tax credits.

It says the UK remains the “most lucrative destination” for migrants across the EU, and estimates that 50,000 people from Romania and Bulgaria will move to the UK each year for five years.

The Bulgarian ambassador, however, has previously estimated that only about 8,000 migrants a year from Bulgaria would come to the UK.

The government is tightening the rules to ensure that migrants cannot claim out-of-work benefits for three months after arriving and will only qualify for support after six months if they have a genuine chance of employment.

Overseas visitors and migrants are also to face new charges for some NHS services in England.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the British public “are rightly concerned that migrants should contribute to this country, and not be drawn here by the attractiveness of our benefits system”.

Professor John Salt, from University College London, said it was impossible to know what the figures would be but he told the BBC that advance flight bookings from Bulgaria to the UK were lower in the first quarter of 2014 than in 2013.

‘Highly skilled’
The last Labour government was criticised for hugely under-estimating the levels of migration from Poland and seven other countries in eastern Europe when they joined the EU in 2004 – when no interim controls were imposed.

But the London Chambers of Commerce said the majority of its members believed migration had benefited the capital’s economy and were happy to employ foreign workers.

Not all Romanians, young and old, are going to jump on a plane”

Brandusa Predescu
Romanian Foreign Ministry spokesman
“Migrant workers are often highly skilled, bringing with them knowledge and experience that London businesses badly need now in order to grow,” said its chief executive Colin Stanbridge.

“The government has allowed the debate about Bulgarian and Romanian migration to become highly politicised when, in fact, giving London businesses access to a larger labour pool will help cement our economic recovery.”

A Romanian government official accused sections of the British media of inflaming tensions ahead of the deadline.

“We see headlines that sometimes are really close to racist remarks, xenophobic remarks, and the target for now is the Romanian citizen that is supposedly invading Britain,” spokeswoman Brandusa Predescu told BBC Radio 5 live.

The UK, she said, was “one of the most multi-cultural, open and tolerant societies in the world” and what she described as a campaign against incomers from her country was a “contradiction in terms and attitudes”.

“People in Romania do read the British press,” she added.

“There is not going to be an invasion… not all Romanians, young and old, are going to jump on a plane.

“The UK, for now, is not even the preferred destination for Romanians.”
However, Migration Watch – which campaigns for tighter controls on immigration – has suggested that many of the two million Romanians and Bulgarians currently working in Spain and Italy could now be tempted to come to the UK by the higher wages on offer and access to in-work benefits such as tax credits.

It says the UK remains the “most lucrative destination” for migrants across the EU, and estimates that 50,000 people from Romania and Bulgaria will move to the UK each year for five years.

The Bulgarian ambassador, however, has previously estimated that only about 8,000 migrants a year from Bulgaria would come to the UK.

The government is tightening the rules to ensure that migrants cannot claim out-of-work benefits for three months after arriving and will only qualify for support after six months if they have a genuine chance of employment.

Overseas visitors and migrants are also to face new charges for some NHS services in England.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith said the British public “are rightly concerned that migrants should contribute to this country, and not be drawn here by the attractiveness of our benefits system”.

Professor John Salt, from University College London, said it was impossible to know what the figures would be but he told the BBC that advance flight bookings from Bulgaria to the UK were lower in the first quarter of 2014 than in 2013.

‘Highly skilled’
The last Labour government was criticised for hugely under-estimating the levels of migration from Poland and seven other countries in eastern Europe when they joined the EU in 2004 – when no interim controls were imposed.

But the London Chambers of Commerce said the majority of its members believed migration had benefited the capital’s economy and were happy to employ foreign workers.

Not all Romanians, young and old, are going to jump on a plane”

Brandusa Predescu
Romanian Foreign Ministry spokesman
“Migrant workers are often highly skilled, bringing with them knowledge and experience that London businesses badly need now in order to grow,” said its chief executive Colin Stanbridge.

“The government has allowed the debate about Bulgarian and Romanian migration to become highly politicised when, in fact, giving London businesses access to a larger labour pool will help cement our economic recovery.”

A Romanian government official accused sections of the British media of inflaming tensions ahead of the deadline.

“We see headlines that sometimes are really close to racist remarks, xenophobic remarks, and the target for now is the Romanian citizen that is supposedly invading Britain,” spokeswoman Brandusa Predescu told BBC Radio 5 live.

romania flagThe UK, she said, was “one of the most multi-cultural, open and tolerant societies in the world” and what she described as a campaign against incomers from her country was a “contradiction in terms and attitudes”.

“People in Romania do read the British press,” she added.

“There is not going to be an invasion… not all Romanians, young and old, are going to jump on a plane.

“The UK, for now, is not even the preferred destination for Romanians.”

Source- BBC

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