12 February 2013

Romanian anger at UK immigration fears

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The Romanian foreign minister has hit back at the tone of the UK immigration debate in Britain, claiming the 'scrounger' stereotype being perpetuated is unfair and inaccurate.

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The Romanian foreign minister is frustrated at the tone of the rhetoric regarding the UK immigration of Romanians and Bulgarians.

Romanian and Bulgaria are due to accede to the EU at the end of this year, giving citizens of both countries the opportunity to live and work in Britain without the need for a UK visa.

The last time Eastern European countries acceded to the EU - including Poland, Latvia and Lithuania in 2004 - immigration rates in the UK surged to levels of over 250,000 a year and now concerns have been raised that a similar influx will occur when Romania and Bulgaria accede.

British politics are currently dominated by the debate over whether to introduce stricter controls for intra-EU migration and even whether they UK should leave the EU.

However, Titus Corlatean says the debate is focussed on an unfair stereotype of Romanians as criminals or scroungers eager to move to the UK to take advantage of the country's benefit system.

"This type of debate in British society is quite surprising and we regret it," Mr Corlatean told the BBC. "It's quite enough."

Mr Corlatean pointed to the numbers of Romanian citizens already living and working in the UK - including over 2,000 Romanian doctors.

"They are not immigrants; they are European citizens with full rights."

The Romanian minister said he had discussed the topic with UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and had received reassurances that the UK plans to stick to its European Union obligations when it comes to the free movement of EU citizens.

"I received clear assurances that the UK will respect the free movement of Romanians and Bulgarians, and it will respect European treaties."

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