29 January 2013

Negative UK immigration campaign labelled 'farcical'

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The Government's plans to introduce a negative advertising campaign in the hopes of keeping UK immigration figures low when Bulgaria and Romania accede to the EU later this year have been labelled 'farcical' by Labour MP Keith Vaz.

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Labour MP Keith Vaz says the Government's plans to deter migrants by portraying the country as dull and devoid of opportunity are 'farcical'.

With UK immigration levels remaining way above the Conservative Party's target of the 'tens of thousands' concern has been raised about the prospect of Bulgaria and Romania joining the EU later this year; with full membership, citizens of the two Eastern European countries will be able to live and work in the UK without a UK visa.

The last time a similar situation occurred - when Poland, Latvia and Lithuania acceded in 2004 - net migration levels rapidly escalated to over 250,000 people a year moving to the UK.

While there are differences between this case and 2004, anti-immigration advocates such as Migration Watch UK have voiced their concern that the UK could face an influx of migrants placing further strain on social services and the welfare state.

The coalition Government have admitted their concern and yesterday released tentative plans to roll out a negative advertising campaign portraying the UK as a dull and dreary place with little opportunity for work in the hopes of deterring some potential migrants.

However, Labour MP Keith Vaz, who is also chair of the home affairs select committee - has labelled the plans as 'bordering on the farcical'

"Advertisements and propaganda trying to stop Romanian and Bulgarians coming to Britain borders on the farcical," said Mr Vaz.

"These kinds of tactics have been used in the past and been found to be counterproductive."

Mr Vaz said there was division within Whitehall over how best to deal with the prospect of thousands of Bulgarians and Romanians being able to freely move to the UK under the Freedom of Movement directive.

"On the one hand, the Home Office doesn't want them in but on the other hand the minister for Europe [David Lidington] is saying there is freedom of movement.

"Ministers would be better off working with their Romanian and Bulgarian counterparts and the EY to address the reasons migrants want to come here in the first place."

The prospect of Bulgaria and Romania acceding has escalated the UK immigration debate to such intensity that Prime Minister David Cameron announced last week that he would hold an in/out referendum on the UK's membership of the EU should the Conservative Party win the next election and should Mr Cameron fail to secure a new agreement with Brussels.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said discussions were under way in how best to quell the possibility of a large influx of migrants, with no options having been ruled out.

"The issue here is around dealing with potential damage to the UK's labour market and potential scope for curbing immigration to that end," said the spokesperson.

"We're in the process of considering what we may be able to do. Clearly there is a European legal framework within which we have to operate. Clearly there may be some areas where we may want to cooperate with other member states."

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