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Nick Clegg grilled over UK immigration predictions

by Dominic 21/02/2013 12:01:00

The prospect of Romania and
Bulgaria joinnig the European
Union has ignited a fierce debate.
 

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has faced criticism over his reluctance to detail UK immigration predictions concerning the number of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants expected next year.

Bulgaria and Romania will accede to the European Union at the end of this year, giving all their citizens the right to live and work anywhere else in the EU without the need for a specific visa.

The last time a similar event occurred - when Poland, Latvia and Lithuania acceded in 2004 - rates of UK immigration reached record highs and many are concerned that the same could be about to happen again.

The problem with official predictions

The then-Labour government predicted in 2004 that Britain could expect no more than 13,000 extra migrants a year. However, actual rates quickly surpassed these estimates, with net UK immigration reaching over 250,000 a year by 2012.

Labour have faced repeated criticism of their immigration policies - particularly their wildly inaccurate predictions - and current Labour Leader Ed Miliband has admitted his party 'got it wrong' on immigration during their 13 years in power.

The current coalition Government therefore has been reluctant to publicly release predictions for Bulgaria and Romania this time around - despite consistent calls to do so - through fear of getting them wrong.

The Communities Secretary Eric Pickles said last month he had seen official estimates but was not confident they were correct. Speaking on his weekly phone in show, Mr Clegg admitted he too had seen figures but said it would not help 'public confidence in the immigration system' if they were released.

While many have taken this to mean the figures are high, Mr Clegg insisted the figures are not ready.

"I don't think we as a Government should start bandying around estimates, estimates which at the moment aren't very precise," said the deputy PM.

Why are the numbers so hard to predict?

While Labour may have got their estimates so wrong in 2004, the situation facing the current Government is even more complex; in 2004 only Britain opened its borders to the eight eastern European nations acceding to the EU. In 2013, every EU country will open its borders to Bulgaria and Spain.

There is already a significant number of Bulgarians and Romanians in the UK - 47,000 and 94,000 respectively - but studies show many prefer the cultural and language similarities with Italy and Spain to the UK.

Pressure to release numbers anyway

Migration Watch UK, a staunchly anti-immigration think tank, has released its own estimates of 50,000 Bulgarians and Romanians a year - estimates which it says are conservatively low - and has called on the Government to release its own estimates.

Despite previous mistakes, Labour's shadow immigration minister, Chris Bryant, said the Government is 'in a hopeless mess’ over the issue.

Even London Mayor Boris Johnson has joined in the argument, calling Mr Clegg a 'great big vacillating jelly of indecision' who 'needs to discover some spine' on the issue of immigration.

"If they've got some estimates they should clearly release them," said Mr Johnson.

On his weekly phone in show on LBC, Mr Clegg was pushed on whether the estimates were higher or lower than Labour's 2004 predictions of 13,000 but the deputy prime minister held firm.

"I can't give you clues...you are inviting me to get into a sort of guessing game about an estimate."

Marissa Murdock, casework manager of the UK Visa Bureau, says the Government is right not to release estimates simply to mollify critics if they have no confidence in the figures.

"The situation facing the Government at the end of the year is incredibly complex and there is no way to definitively predict how many people will come," said Ms Murdock.

"Any Government prediction will only further ignite the debate so it is right to hold off on publishing anything until it is certain that they are as accurate as possible."


- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

Romania hits back at UK immigration deterrence campaign

by Dominic 01/02/2013 12:46:00

 

Photo: gandul.info

After reports emerged this week that the Government was considering a negative advertising campaign aimed at deterring Bulgarian and Romanian citizens from moving to the UK when their countries join the EU has raised the ire in Romania, who have hit back with a campaign of their own.

Bulgaria and Romania are due to accede to the EU later this year, providing all citizens with the full benefits of membership, including the Freedom of Movement. This means citizens of either country will be able to live and work in the UK without the need for a UK visa.

The last time several Eastern European countries acceded to the EU - Poland, Latvia and Lithuania in 2004 - UK immigration rates soared and concerns have been raised that a similar scenario could occur later this year or early 2014, placing further strain on already struggling public services.

While there is still some contention over the effect the accession will have - the Government have so far refused to release official estimates - reports early this week suggested the Government was considering a negative ad campaign designed to deter Romanians and Bulgarians.

The ads - which were quickly derided and dismissed by politicians - were supposed to feature a dreary Britain with a rainy, cold climate and little opportunity for work.

Whether any such ad campaign would have ever materialised or not, one Romanian newspaper has taken it upon themselves to create their own ad campaign - designed to attract Brits to Romania - using tongue-in-cheek 'facts' and stats about Britain and Romania under the tag line 'we may not like Britain, but you'll love Romania'.

One ad claims that 'half of [Romanian] women look like Kate [Middleton]. The other half, like her sister.' and, continuing in the vein of mocking the monarchy that 'Harry has never been photographed naked once'.


- Dominic Ladden-Powell is the Online Editor for the UK Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.