Britain’s ambassador in Sofia Jonathan Allen said on April 5 that the UK was preparing to lift labour market restrictions at the end of the year, but did not fear a “flood of migrants” at that point.
Speaking to Bulgarian National Television, Allen said that his country would treat Bulgarian and Romanian migrant workers as any other citizens of the European Union, without any discrimination.
Allen’s statement came on the same day that Britain’s National Institute of Economic and Social Research published a report, which said that the number of new immigrants was unlikely to strain UK’s public services and benefits system.
The report did not offer an estimate for the number of migrants from the two countries that might move to UK – prompting anti-migration campaigner Andrew Green from lobby group Migration Watch UK to call it a “bucket of whitewash”.
It did say, however, that Britain was unlikely to be the main destination of such migrants, who were more likely to go to Spain and Italy, and to a lesser extent Germany. While surveys in Bulgaria and Romania showed some interest in migration to the UK, it was not a favoured destination and there were indications that much of the interest that exists was in temporary stays rather than long term moves, the report said.
The report said that any migrants to UK would come looking to improve their job prospects and living standards and not as benefit or health “tourists”. They were likely to be young and without families, at least initially, and so their impact on public services was likely to be modest, although there could be some pressure on the schools system in some areas.
Officially, there were 26 000 Bulgarians and 80 000 Romanians currently living in the UK, according to labour force data quoted by the report, but the real number could be higher, the report said.
(Giant Bulgarian and EU flags in Varna. Photo: Clive Leviev-Sawyer)