Attitudes in UK have changed, say immigrants

Fears have calmed as the expected influx of Romanians and Bulgarians does not come to pass

British home affairs select committee chairman Keith Vaz (left) at Luton airport as the first Romanians and Bulgarians with unrestricted access to the UK labour market began to arrive. Photograph:  Jennifer Cockerell/PA Wire

British home affairs select committee chairman Keith Vaz (left) at Luton airport as the first Romanians and Bulgarians with unrestricted access to the UK labour market began to arrive. Photograph: Jennifer Cockerell/PA Wire

Mon, Feb 3, 2014, 17:52

In today’s world, airline websites, such as that of the Hungarian-based Wizz Air, can be the first to herald that significant population movements are afoot, or indeed, that the opposite is the case.

For months, public debate in Britain has focused on fears that large numbers of Romanians and Bulgarians would arrive after free movement restrictions lifted on January 1st.

Since then, they have been noticeable by their absence. For example, passengers intending to travel from Bourgas on the Black Sea next month could this week buy a one-way ticket for just €74.

Prices have not changed much, if at all, for months, bar the usual fluctuations that can be found to and from a destination popular with British tourists.

On Thursday, Conservative MPs in the House of Commons eagerly wanted to vote on an amendment put down to the Immigration Bill from Conservative MP Nigel Mills, who is facing pressure over immigration in his Derbyshire constituency.

It demanded that restrictions on nationals from both countries – which were in place since Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007 – should be brought back into force.

In the end, the amendment was sent into the long grass: “Even with all the whips and the pressure, they obviously didn’t fancy a vote on the subject. They obviously knew how strong feelings were on the issue,” said Mills .

In any event, it could never have become law, since it would have been illegal under EU rules and treaties – a fact that some Conservatives accept, but others stubbornly refuse to acknowledge.


Impact
Nevertheless, the months of rhetoric have left their impact. “As a result of the media campaign against Bulgarians we feel that the perception and attitude of some British people towards us has changed,” says Emil Rusanov. Rusanov, who runs a London-based Bulgarian newspaper, Budilnik, is a leading member of the Alliance Against Romanians and Bulgarians Discrimination, which has held a number of protests on Whitehall.

In Leeds, according to the Romanian Dental Society of the UK, a Romanian dentist, Dr Gina Giuliana Marinescu, was shouted at by a patient, who declared that Romanians should “work on the farms and not as dentists”.

The case of Marinescu, who is pregnant, now looking for another job and one of several thousand qualified Bulgarian and Romanian medical staff working in Britain, has prompted a complaint from the dental society to the General Dental Council.

Saying that they are filling gaps in the National Health Service, Romanian ambassador to Britain Ion Jinga said he recently received a letter from a Romanian doctor, who came in 2004 to work in a London hospital. Up to last year, the doctor said life was good: “Now, almost on a daily basis I am asked where I am originally from, and I have to face a racist attitude following my answer.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.