A Romanian-Bulgarian Britain

Since the new free movement laws were introduced in a January this year, Bulgarians and Romanians have been able to move and work in the UK. Not only was this new movement predicted to boost the economy and benefit culturally rich areas, it was feared that the influx of new immigrants would exceed the predicted figures of migration initially made.

Tara Williams investigates whether recent government data stacks up against the predicted figures from the right-wing migration watch as well as the levels of migration from Europe to see if they are indicative of a general rise and consider things that may have changed with immigration generally over time.

The major public interest in Bulgarian and Romanian migration to the UK in recent months has come on the back of government changes and adaptations to immigration restrictions.

Both Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union (EU) on 1 January 2007 and the recent free movement laws were put in to place exactly seven years after that time. In that same frame, both countries were each subjected to transitional employment restrictions.

According to GOV.UK, This meant that until 2014, Romanians and Bulgarians had limits placed on the type of work they could undertake whilst in the United Kingdom.
Since then however, these restrictions have ended and the eastern European nationals have been able to migrate and work to the UK more freely and with added work benefits.

Migration Watch, a politically driven think-tank group, are one of several sources which have been providing official data to indicate the nature and impact these new changes have had on the level of migration from Bulgarians and Romanians to the UK.

In January, the right-wing website posted an estimated figure which forecasted that between 30,000 and 70,000 people from Romania and Bulgaria will move to the UK each year for the next five years, with a central estimate of 50,000 a year.
They said on their website: “The UK remains the most lucrative destination for Romanian and Bulgarian migrants across the EU” with figures that indicated the minimum wage in both of the countries is a sixth of the UK national minimum rate.

It is reported that in both Bulgaria and Romania, the average national pay is around £1 per hour which suggests that the nationals may be coming to the UK for economic benefit. – “A lure too difficult to resist” says Migration Watch.

At present there is said to be an estimated 94000 Romanians and 47000 Bulgarians living in the UK and GOV.UK reports that there has been a statistically significant increase in immigration of both citizens to 24,000 in the year ending September 2013 from 9,000 in the previous year: “An estimated 70% arrived for work and 30% for study.”

The graph below, which was based on official government statistics shows that from the time both countries joined the EU until 2012, there had been a fluctuating level of work applications made for the UK.

Their latest national statistics will not become available until mid-way through the year but are expected to reveal lesser amounts predicted before the change in law by Migration Watch despite the fact that the Office of National Statistics (ONS) estimated a net flow of 212,000 long-term migrants to the UK in the year ending September 2013 which is “a statistically significant increase from 154,000 in the previous year.”

What does the free movement mean for us Brits?
Well, in the face of Migration Watch reports that 77% of the British public wanted to see immigration reduced at the time of the law change, some members of the British public have said that the free movement of Romanians and Bulgarians will encourage economic growth and is not a national threat like it has been anticipated.
Furthermore, some believe that Immigration is no new phenomena and that it can enrich culture, diversity, workplaces and even schools and thus foster a cohesive society that has a greater knowledge and skill set.

On the Migration Watch website, the right wing political, in the face of these views of the public, could be seen to have a political agenda as they report that a staggering 69% of respondents from their surveys thought that immigration had a negative effect on the UK.

They also said that from their survey, 72% of people wanted to decrease the number of legal immigrants who are allowed to relocate to the UK and that 20% of them wanted a system which would allow illegal immigrants to work in the UK on a temporary basis and feared that people immigrating into the UK will take all of the available work. They also claimed that people wanted to offer temporary work but without offering the immigrants citizenship.

These figures were shown as the government mention plans to net immigration to bring figures down by the end of parliament.

After looking over the GOV.UK statistics on Citizenship grants made according to previous countries of nationality, I found that both Bulgarians and Romanians were in the top ten list for European nationals who had most applied for citizenship in the UK since they becoming a part of the EU. They were both topped by Turkey, Russia and Poland who made a net total of 47.292 applications to work.

The Guardian Newspaper in 2012 said that immigration and emigration to and from the UK was actually on the decrease rather than increase. Their information came from the Home Office and suggests that before the free movement law, people we coming less and less to the UK.
Similarly, in recent media, it is thought that when the official statistics on Romanian and Bulgarian migration comes out by the end of the year, we will see a smaller amount of figures than what Migration Watch predicted, in the meantime, we’ll have to wait and see.