Romanians and Bulgarians in the UK React to Immigration Furore
Guardian readers from Romania and Bulgaria with experience of working in the UK react to the media reports of the recent lifting of immigration restrictions.
"Opportunities must be reciprocated"
I moved here more than 20 years ago to do my university studies (paid full fees) and got a job in London. It goes without say that I never asked nor received a penny from the state as help. I am a proud Romanian and I know many other Romanians that are building their lives here very successfully. Few know, but the Canary Wharf itself was built and developed by a Romanian. The best opera singer in London is also Romanian... and the list can go on. I find it incomprehensible that a country like UK can lower itself to blaming others for its own failures.
As a founding member of EU, the UK had the right to invest, travel and develop many businesses in Romania. The largest shopping malls in Bucharest were developed and owned by English people. HRH Prince Charles himself invested and bought houses in Transylvania while many agribusinesses from England have recently found incredible business opportunities in Romania by buying large swathes of fertile land which cannot be found in England. Nobody in Romania raised any quarrels about these and we welcomed English people. These opportunities must be reciprocated as we will not accept being treated second class citizens.
Of course each country has its history lessons and a tumultuous past. Romania is rebuilding successfully after 40 years of dark communism and after two world wars that have reduced our capabilities to a standstill. Eastern Europe and with it Romania have tiny Roma minorities (2-3%); EU and with it the UK have pushed us to limits to assimilate them in our societies. I find it hilarious that after giving Romania lessons of behaviour the UK is now acting this way.
I recommend all your readers a trip to Romania and to stay informed.
"I am becoming painfully aware of my nationality"
I am a highly skilled Romanian worker (I have a PhD from a North American university and an MA from a British university) who has been living and working in the UK as a lecturer in a Russell group university since January 2013. I enjoy working in the UK and I particularly like the professional recognition I received since moving here. However, the wave of anti-Romanian rhetoric has increasingly made me weary of answering the question "where are you from?". For the first time in my ten years outside of my home country — the life of a researcher is necessarily nomadic — I am becoming painfully aware of my nationality.
And the sad truth is that few media outlets in this country are doing anything to counter the fear mongering that makes life difficult for the many who have been contributing to this country's economy. What bothers me is that inflammatory discourses stifle an honest debate and that facts are more often than not set to the side.
According to the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London, after 1999, immigrants in the UK were 45% less likely to receive state benefits than native Brits. They were also 3% less likely to live in social housing. According to the EU Commission, the unemployment rate among immigrants is lower than among Brits.
Immigrants were also better educated than native Britons. In 2011, 32% of those from the European Economic Area (EEA) and 43% of those from outside of the region had a university degree, whereas for native Brits the percentage is 21%. Recent immigrants from the European Economic Area (EEA) contributed on average 34% more taxes than they received as transfers.
On a personal note, when I got my job, two of the three shortlisted candidates were Romanians.
The latest statistics from the UK government show that there was a statistically significant increase in the number of EU15 citizens arriving for work-related reasons from 41,000 in the year ending June 2012 to 59,000 in the year ending June 2013. For clarification, the EU 15 are: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.
27,000 Spanish people immigrated to the UK in the year to June 2013, an increase of 10,000 compared to the 12 month period before that. Often we hear that London is France’s sixth biggest city. Yet nobody starts a panic about immigrants from "first class" member states. One cannot help but wonder what kind of attitude transpires from these public campaigns of discrediting some EU members, but not others.
Last but not least, the comparison with Polish immigration to the UK. I cannot estimate the numbers but there is one thing we should keep in mind:
In January 2014 eight other countries lifted restrictions: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Malta, Spain, and The Netherlands
In 2004, only the UK, Ireland and Sweden opened their doors to Eastern European workers.
When will facts rather than fear mongering begin to dominate the public debate in this country?
Dr Mihaela Mihai
"I always go back to Bulgaria in the end"
I'm in my 30s and am a top-rate IT consultant. Have been in a few European countries to work, Britain included. However I always go back to Bulgaria in the end and prefer to stay here when not on on-site work elsewhere for three main reasons: very low taxes for high earners, the low cost of living, and an already established social circle of contacts
In my experience this is hardly uncommon. The Bulgarian ecomomy is undercapitalized so there is an excess of skilled labor. Many professionals go to Britain and the western EU not to stay but to build financial security and professional confidence. Some of my friends return like me, some stay for now but very few view themselves as "there to stay".
I know there is also some low-income migration but in the long term they can hardly compete with Asian/African/Middle East migrants. They either move up to skilled labor or eventually go back. A probable exception to this is the Roma minority — they are socially isolated anywhere they go so Bulgaria is as foreign to them as Britain.
Overall Bulgarians are very loud to complain about being the poorest country in the EU and having the worst politicians. But if you look at the big picture it's a country of medium wealth and good long-term economic prospects where politicians are just as incompetent and irrelevant as pretty much anywhere else.
"UK is my second country"
I moved to the UK in 2010 because it was hard for me to find a job to pay for my studies in Romania. Now I am a degree in Economics Science and I tried to apply for a good job (as receptionist and secretary) but always I received the same answer: Sorry but you are Romanian and we can't employ you.
I miss Romania every second of my life because here is my family and part of my life but the UK is giving me the chance for a better future. I am working hard and pay 20% tax for someone else's benefits, and i receive lots of bad insults and all these messages from news about Romania.
It's very hard to be a foreigner in UK, but I will try my best to show everyone that a Romanian can be human and not the worst person in the world!
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I have read the comments from the Bulgarians and Romanians living in U.K. They seem to be missing one vital point that they would understand if they knew the history of immigration to the U.K. since the 1950's. They are just the latest in a long line of mass migration into our country. It is not a personal slight on any specific nationality it is just that we are sick of "welcoming" so many so often into our already over populated island. We would like to have our country and traditions back but instead we Brits are continually pushed to the back of the queue absorbing other cultures, religions and traditions.