19 April 2013

Theresa May stands firm on UK immigration estimates

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The Home Secretary Theresa May has refused point blank to release or commission UK immigration figures detailing estimates on how many Bulgarian and Romanians will move to the UK when temporary curbs on their movement within the European Union are lifted at the end of the year.

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The Home Secretary Theresa May said it is 'not helpful, not sensible and not possible to put reliable figures together'.

Bulgaria and Romanian initially joined the EU in 2005 but were prevented access from the Union's Freedom of Movement directive. However, these curbs will be lifted as of 1 January, 2014 - meaning they could potentially move to Britain without the need for a UK visa.

A bitter debate has ensued since this prospect begun to edge closer; the last time a similar event occurred - in 2004 when Poland, Latvia and Lithuania acceded - caused a surge in UK immigration which is only just beginning to subside.

The argument centres on how many more people the UK can expect as of next year; critics claim tens of thousands will come while their opponents claim the figure will be much more moderate as Romanians and Bulgarians will also have access to other European countries - access which was not available to the Polish and other Eastern Europeans in 2005.

The influencing factors have been such that the Government has refused to release official estimates and Mrs May, appearing before the Home Affairs Select Committee, stood by her resolve.

"Do you not think it would be helpful if research was commissioned in order to try and get a more accurate figure as to how many from Romania and Bulgaria are coming in?" asked the committee's chair, Labour MP Keith Vaz.

"Both the Migration Advisory Committee and the [National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR)] have indicated it is not helpful, not sensible, and it is not possible to put reliable figures together about the numbers who are likely to come to the UK from Romania and Bulgaria," said Mrs May.

"It is not the case that UK is the only country that is suddenly going to find its borders open on 1 January, 2014 to Romania and Bulgaria.

"There are other significant countries within the EU such as Germany, Austria, France who will also be opening their borders to Romania and Bulgaria at the same time."

While some may feel the Government has cause not to want to make any predictions that could prove wrong - the previous Labour government predicted just 12,000 Polish migrants would come in 2004, a figure which quickly escalated to 250,000 - Mr Vaz said too little was being done in conjunction with the Romanian and Bulgarian governments to monitor the transition.

"What work is being done with the Romanian and Bulgarian governments to try and find out why there's going to be, as suggested, such a large pattern of migration from Romania and Bulgaria as a result of the raising of transitional arrangements.

"We can't sit there and hope can we?"

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