Immigrant Invasion Prognoses Failed - British Press

Politics » BULGARIA IN EU | January 2, 2014, Thursday // 11:08
Immigrant Invasion Prognoses Failed – British Press: Immigrant Invasion Prognoses Failed - British Press The first day of 2014 proved that expectations of massive immigration from Bulgaria and Romania are largely unfounded. Photo by EPA/BGNES

The anticipated mass immigration of Romanians and Bulgarians after lifting restrictions on 1 January is currently one of the main topics in the British press.

The emphasis is on the incorrect prognoses that the United Kingdom will be flooded by Romanians and Bulgarians who will weight down the British welfare state.

Half empty planes and coaches arrived in Britain yesterday as the much-hyped Romanian invasion failed to materialize, Mirror Daily informed.

It appears that a mere handful of Romanians and Bulgarians have taken up the offer of unrestricted access to the UK labor market on the first day of the EU scheme.

The predicted tidal wave of immigrants flooding the ports, coach stations and airports turned out to be nothing more than a trickle, Mirror argued.

The Tories and UK Independence party were last night slammed for whipping "hysteria" after alleged hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians failed to arrive.

The British newspaper quoted several Bulgarians who arrived yesterday in the UK, including two students, who said that they intended to seek part-time jobs

All the apocalyptic forecasts of hoards of Bulgarians and Romanians, made by some right-wing politicians were only imaginary, the Guardian wrote earlier on Wednesday.  Romanians and Bulgarians have been able to live and work throughout the European Union since 2007. There are already about 150,000 in Britain, 2 million in Italy and Spain, and seven other EU countries lifted working restrictions yesterday, including France and Germany, the newspaper added.

No doubt the numbers will pick up, though it will not be on the scale of the east European migration of the past decade. But for months, the UK has been subjected to a drumbeat of hysteria, as the Tories vied with the nationalist UK Independence party to terrify the public about the coming onslaught and promise ever more meaningless or toxic crackdowns, egged on by a xenophobic media.

In reality, the politicians are posturing because they cannot control EU migration, but need a scapegoat for falling living standards, shrinking public services and the housing shortage, the Guardian argued.

The issue of Romanian and Bulgarian immigration will dominate European parliament elections in May, in which nationalist parties across Europe – including the UK Independence party – are expected to fare well, according to the Financial Times.

The Independent chose to show a different perspective on the issue, that of Barnaby Davis, 30, from London who has been teaching English in Bucharest for the last six months. He now lives in the Romanian capital with his American girlfriend who is also a teacher.

"There's a large ex-pat community and it's a good place to live because the wages are so much higher than the cost of living, so fundamentally we're better off than we would be in the UK.", Davis said for The Independent.

The new migrants are likely to boost British coffers, the Economist wrote in one of its blogs. Several recent reports have concluded that migrants pay more in taxes than they took out in welfare payments, because they are mainly young and keen to find work.

The first Romanian immigrant to land in Britain on January 1st Victor Spiresau, who works in construction, said he did not want to "rob" Britain, just make enough money to go home with a nest-egg for his family.

The question haunting Britain's increasingly agitated debate about immigration is whether characters like Mr Spiresau will define the political narrative of immigration in 2014—or whether a new tranche of arrivals from poorer parts of the old eastern bloc will end up as a drain on the welfare system and public services, the Economist continued.

Yet Britain does suffer from an anomaly in its welfare set-up, which is likely to trouble PM David Cameron in his political battle with UKIP (an anti-immigration party), his own party's right-wing and public opinion. Entitlements to claim basic benefits in Britain are relatively generous to newcomers because the social security system is based on means-testing, rather than the contributory principles common in other European countries, which take into account whether a claimant has previously worked and paid into the system, the Economist warned.

In truth, though, Britain's welfare system, designed for an era of much less labor mobility, is unlikely to be greatly strained by a new wave of incomers. But the lack of reciprocity between its set-up and that of other European countries is a reasonable concern, even if the amount of money at stake is modest. PM Cameron must therefore hope that the majority of migrants who choose Britain as their destination in 2014 are as intent on working as Mr Spiresau, the Economist concluded.

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Tags: welfare, David Cameron, restriction, UK, Romania, Bulgaria, immigration, Romanians, Bulgarians
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