Immigration from Romania and Bulgaria

January 17, 2013

Immigration from Romania and Bulgaria could amount to 50,000 a year in the first five years.  That is the conclusion of a study issued by Migration Watch UK today.  250,000 is the population of a city of the size of Plymouth or Newcastle.  That number could be considerably higher if there were to be a movement of Roma to the UK or if some of the nearly one million Romanians in both Spain and Italy should transfer to Britain.

The government have so far declined to publish their own estimate.  They are very conscious of the previous government’s catastrophic under estimate of immigration from Poland and other East European countries in 2004 which Migrationwatch described at the time as “almost worthless”.

This time round, with the experience of the East Europeans in mind, it is possible to offer a ball park estimate of likely immigration from Romania and Bulgaria.  As it happens their income per head is about 1/5th of that of the UK – as was the case for Poland in 2004.  Furthermore their youth unemployment is very high as was also the case in Poland when they joined the EU and both countries now have established communities in Britain.

The major difference this time is that all other EU countries will also have to open their labour markets to Romania and Bulgaria in January 2014.  Fifteen smaller countries and Italy have already done so.  As for larger countries, with youth unemployment in Spain at 56%, Italy at 37% and France at 27% it would seem that only Germany at 8% and the Netherlands at 9.7% are likely destinations for Romanian and Bulgarian migrants. Britain, with youth unemployment at 20%, is nonetheless an attractive destination partly because of its flexible labour market and partly because of the ease of access to its benefits system.

After examining three different methods of estimating the likely inflow of migrants from Romania and Bulgaria, Migration Watch UK has concluded that they would add between 30,000 and 70,000 to our population in each of the next 5 years – giving a central estimate of 50,000 per year.  Claims in Parliament that there could be “an increase of some one third of a million over present levels, possibly within two years” seem exaggerated.  However, the number of Roma who might come to Britain is a wild card.

A further wild card is the presence of nearly 1 million Romanians in Spain among whom nearly 1/3rd of a million workers were unemployed in 2011.  Even if they had access to unemployment pay in Spain their benefits would run out after one year. There must, therefore, be a significant risk that they will move to Britain where access to benefits does not depend on contributions – only on “habitual residence” which, in practice, is easily acquired.

One finding of the analysis is that the International Passenger Survey, the basis of the official immigration statistics, only picked up half of the East European immigration to the UK.  If this is repeated the official figure for net immigration, which the government are committed to reducing to tens of thousands, would be increased by only 25,000 rather than 50,000 a year.

Commenting, Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migrationwatch said “It is not good enough to duck making an estimate of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria.  It is likely to be on a scale that will have significant consequences for housing and public services.  It will also add further to the competition which young British workers already face. We have therefore produced our own estimate as a contribution to an important debate which must include the ease with which migrants to the UK can currently access the welfare state”.

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