As European Union continues to expand, fear of increased migration grows
LONDON — Nearly a half-million workers from former communist countries of Eastern Europe have entered Britain since EU expansion two years ago, promoting fears of a crisis next year when Romania and Bulgaria enter the European Union.
FromMay2004 to June this year, 447,000 migrants from eight new EUmember states landed in Britain looking for work, the Home Office said in a report issued Aug. 22.
The report said the immigrants had not adversely affected employment or wage levels in the nation of 60 million. However, it stirred concern about the upcoming admission of Bulgaria and Romania.
“We are yet to take a decision as to what access Bulgarian and Romanian nationals will have to our labor market when they join the EU,” said TonyMcNulty, minister for policing, security and community safety, in releasing the report.
He said the figure could be closer to 600,000 if self-employed foreign workers were included.
This would cover Eastern Europeans in the building trade, who make up a sizable work force in Britain.
Some critics say immigration because of an expanded European Union is putting severe pressure on the nation’s welfare, education and health infrastructure.
“There is clearly a continuing massive flow of migrantsfromEastern Europe,” said former British diplomat Andrew Green, who is chairman of the research organization Migrationwatch.
“Thecase for placing restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians is now [unquestionable].”
Mark Boleat of the Association of Labor Providers told the British Broadcasting Corp. that beyond the government’s count of 447,000 migrants, 100,000 workers, and possibly many more, had arrived in Britain without registering.
The British government, believing in free movement of workers across borders in the European bloc, imposed few limits when the immigration pressure began building in May2004, with the admission to the union of eight EasternEurope states: Poland, Lithuania, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia.
That opened the door to workers from the so-called “A8” nations, once behind the Iron Curtain, to go after jobs in Britain.
TheEUenlargement treaty gives governments the right to restrict migration from the A8 countries, but it imposes no limits on two wealthier newmembers,Maltaand Cyprus.
The Home Office report said 264,560 applicants came from Poland, followed by 50,535 from Lithuania and 44,300 from Slovakia.
The applicants approvedtobegin work included factory workers, waiters and waitresses, kitchen and catering assistants, bus and truck drivers, care workers, teachers, dental practitioners, doctors, nurses and medical specialists.
Mr.McNulty insisted that the latest Home Office figures “showthat migrantworkersfrom the accession states are benefiting the United Kingdom, by filling skills and labor gaps that cannot be met from the UK-born population.”