February 07, 2013
Dear Mr Farage,
We, the Bulgarian Community in the United Kingdom wish to address several issues regarding your stance on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens entering the United Kingdom and especially the upcoming cessation of transitional labour restrictions pertaining to nationals of the two countries.
First in the list of things the notion of 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians (also called “A2” by the UKBA) moving to the UK is exaggerated to a point where it borders with lunacy. 29 million (it’s actually 26) is the sum of all people living in the two countries including young, old, sick, disabled, employed, retired and so on. Inferring all 26 million people will pack their bags and move to the UK is beyond outrageous. The UK’s population is 60+ million. Implying all 26 million Bulgarians and Romanians will relocate in Britain is as ridiculous as expecting half of Britain moving to another country altogether.
On several occasions, Mr Farage, you’ve said Bulgarian and Romanian citizens will be able to immediately claim benefits come January 2014. We urge you to get your facts straight before making bold and inaccurate declarations. Access to the benefits system is not automatically granted upon arrival in the country. There are many prerequisites and lengthy procedures in place before a foreign individual is granted benefits aid, for example, acquiring a National Insurance Number. Yet you make it sound to those unfamiliar as if incoming passengers are handed out cash straight from the gates of Heathrow.
It has been suggested that hundreds of thousands of people from Bulgaria and Romania will relocate to the United Kingdom after January 2014 based on estimates from the previous EU enlargement in 2004, where a number of eight European countries joined the Union, referred by the UKBA as “A8”. We believe this predication to be severely flawed on several accounts:
- The 2004 EU enlargement comprised eight countries with combined population of 75 million compared with less than 26 million that of Bulgaria and Romania.
- Upon joining the EU, Britain was one of only three countries that allowed A8 nationals to seek employment without restrictions, a fact which compounded to the net immigration issue from these countries to the UK. Bulgarian and Romanian workers, however, were and still are subject to labour restrictions ever since 2007, essentially making the A2 – A8 immigration comparison factually inapt.
- To date, the overwhelming majority of EU states have willingly and independently ceased to impose labour restrictions for A2 nationals, deeming any such immigration harmless to the domestic economy and social well-being. The last countries to lift all work authorisation requirements for Bulgarians and Romanians are Ireland, Germany (for degree-holders), Iceland and Norway.
- Another strong argument against the notion of massive tide of immigration from A2 countries to the UK is the fact that work restrictions do not apply to highly qualified persons. Thousands of British educated A2 nationals are exempt from labour restrictions in the UK, as are A2 citizens with quality education and skills acquired elsewhere. Many of those are already in the UK.
- A greater number of A2 nationals are currently settled in the UK via self-employment schemes, running small businesses. The vast majority of these individuals are also now exempt from labour restrictions.
Ninety percent of Bulgarian nationals or their families own a home outright. That means no mortgages, loans or monthly rental payments. It is difficult to imagine a person without qualification, skills and financial stability would leave their dwelling, modest as it may be, in a quest to emigrate to a foreign country and language, facing uncertainty, homelessness and starvation. It therefore stands to reason that those who had the means, determination, qualifications, skills and language command have already made the transition to life in Britain and are committed members of society.
UKIP is vociferously and unremittingly calling for a referendum on the EU as means of ending immigration from within the European Union with Bulgaria and Romania in the forefront. UKIP however have yet to explain to the British people of its exact plans on achieving this goal. If Britain is to sever ties with the EU, what becomes of the 750,000 to 1, 000 000 Britons who are currently studying, working, living or otherwise permanently residing in EU member states? Would the British people fancy the exercise of applying for visas when they wish to hop to Barcelona for a holiday or a business conference in Amsterdam or a degree programme in Norway? And since Norway is often being made example of a European country outside the EU, but in trading relations with the Block, it must be noted that all EU nationals have the freedom to live, work and study in Norway – Bulgarians and Romanians notwithstanding, nothing that Norway, on paper, is outside the EU – basic rules apply. With that in mind, how would UKIP go about curbing immigration from within the Union? If the idea is to permit immigration from select EU countries and ban the same from others, we are overly confident, given the current state of affairs and the mechanics of EU immigration laws, that the Union will not tolerate any such cherry-picking, leaving the question widely open or rather moot depending on interpretation.
As members of British society and tax-paying citizens, we abhor the abuse of the country’s benefits system by Bulgarian and Romanian, and British, or any other nationals for that matter. We fully endorse any initiative to revamp the benefits system in a bid to safeguard its integrity and prevent abuse and an unmerited financial aid, but portraying all Bulgarians and Romanians as thieving, lazy, criminal, benefits-seeking lot, set to plague the country – is beyond insulting. We are appalled by the sweeping generalisations and lack of common sense.
Admittedly, immigration is an ongoing issue in the UK, but the country’s immigration problems neither begin nor end with Bulgaria and Romania. A stroll down the streets of London perfectly illustrates our point. It’s puzzling however as to why the cross-hair is locked on Bulgaria and Romania.
We would like to take the opportunity to extend our best of wishes to you and your party, Mr Farage. We wish you a successful career as a politician and may you lead your party to new heights, but please stop scapegoating the peoples of Bulgaria and Romania in the process, it’s rather wearing in the extreme. We feel it is unfortunate that a British political body finds it appropriate to adopt xenophobic, parochial, manipulative, fear-inducing and facts-twisting ways to gain political advantage. What’s even more unfortunate is the British government succumbing to pressure, succumbing to a level this low and resorting to an unprecedented campaign against Bulgarian and Romanian citizens with the sole purpose of cultivating fear and hatered throughout the British public. You wish to prevent immigration? Fine, but have you stopped to consider, Mr Farage, that your agenda and inconsiderate declarations are making life difficult for those of us who are already settled in the UK? Should we now pack our belongings along with our advanced degrees and research, funded by the British tax-payer and move to a country where politicians are slightly more sensitive to the complexities and idiosyncrasies of modern-day society?
As we live, work and study in the United Kingdom, we have come to embrace and appreciate the culture, life and history of this beautiful country and the goodness of its people, which is precisely why we believe your actions and political views contradict and misrepresent the core values and positive image of Great Britain.
Members of the Bulgarian Community in the United Kingdom