50,000 a month arrive from two new EU nations
By STEVE DOUGHTY, Social Affairs Correspondent –
Last updated at 09:21am on 10th May 2007
The number of visitors from Eastern Europe has risen by a quarter since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU, a Government survey has revealed.
The first count taken since the beginning of the year shows there were around 50,000 arrivals each month from the two new members.
The count, at ports and airports, suggests that warnings of a new flood of immigrants could be coming true.
The number of Eastern European immigrants flooding in to Britain has shot up by a quarter
The figures, released by the Office for National Statistics, quantify visitors from around the world who said their stay in Britain would be temporary.
But on past evidence it would be no surprise if the east European 'visitors' decided to stay longer.
There is no time restriction on them, though they must apply for permits if they want to work.
In the first three months of 2006 the number of visitors from Eastern Europe – the eight countries including Poland that came into the EU in April 2004 – was 540,000.
But in the first three months of this year, after Romania and Bulgaria joined, the number rose to 680,000, an increase of 25 per cent.
In March 2007 some 230,000 visitors arrived from the member countries of Eastern Europe, 57,000 more than in the same month last year.
The increases come against a background of rapidly-rising numbers of arrivals and migrants from Eastern Europe as a whole since the British labour market opened to them in 2004.
The figures are, admittedly, subject to the vagaries of the International Passenger Survey, the heavily- discredited Government survey used to plot levels of immigration and emigration. Officials are desperately searching for a more accurate way to count.
Nevertheless they add to anecdotal evidence that Romanians and Bulgarians are taking advantage of the unrestricted entry to Britain that EU membership has given them.
Last week the Daily Mail told how 80 members of the extended Demetrie family from the Romanian village of Tanderei recently settled in the Thames Valley town of Slough.
The Mail also revealed that police officers serving in Westminster in central London have been given a translation guide to help them deal with growing numbers of Romanians.
A flood of migration from Romania and Bulgaria would compound the huge numbers of Eastern Europeans who have chosen to live and work in Britain since 2004.
The Home Office predicted that 13,000 people a year would come to live in Britain from Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Although there is no accurate estimate of numbers who have actually arrived, ministers accept that it is more than 600,000. Among these, 400,000 are thought to be Polish.
Critics of the Government's immigration policies were scathing about the new figures.
Robert Whelan of the Civitas think tank said, “We just don't have an immigration policy. Anyone who wants to come, can come.
“Everybody knew that expanding the European Union would lead to a flood of new migrants.
“The Government kept denying the numbers would be significant, but they are significant.
“This is not a sudden boom that will die away. This is permanent. There is no end in sight to high levels of immigration, and the Government has no will or means of tackling it.”
Ministers have limited the number of work visas to be given to unskilled workers from Romania and Bulgaria to 20,000 a year.
But the restrictions, which permit the self-employed complete freedom to work in Britain, are thought by many to be highly ineffective.
The figures for all overseas visitors show that in the three months to March this year, the number rose two per cent to 8.5 million.
The money they spent went down by two per cent to 3.7billion.