MPs blame crime wave on Romanian, Bulgarian migrants

Comments made in debate ahead of ending of EU work restrictions for two countries

Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants have been blamed for a crime wave in Britain by Conservatives MPs during a debate ahead of the ending of EU work restrictions for people from the two countries.

Reflecting the increasingly heated language being used on the issue, Conservative MP Philip Hollobone said: “We are importing a wave of crime from Romania and Bulgaria.”

Romanians are seven times more likely to be arrested in London than a British national, claimed Mr Hollobone, who is a part-time policeman on London’s Underground.

Repeat arrests
However, the arrest figures are explained by the repeat arrests of Roma beggars the streets.


“Romanians account for more than 11 per cent of all foreign offenders, despite making up, at the moment, just a tiny proportion of residents,” Mr Hollobone told the Commons.

Currently, self-employed Romanians and Bulgarians can live in Britain if they have work permits, but that restriction will end on January 1st for all EU states.

Tory MP Nigel Mills has demanded that the existing restrictions be continued for a further five years – a move that will be illegal under EU law.

Conservatives, rejecting charges of racism, argue that the UK is uniquely attractive to immigrants because of the language, an improving economy and good welfare.

Unlike other EU countries, benefits are awarded on the basis of need, not on past contributions – and the UK is not allowed to discriminate between locals and foreigners.

“We have to make a choice between the welfare system put in place by Labour after the war, or the grand project of the European grandees. We can’t have both,” said Tory MP Douglas Carswell. However, fellow MP John Baron, who too wants restrictions to continue, acknowledged that the majority of Eastern European immigrants do not exploit welfare rules. “The majority work hard, they don’t come for benefits, they come because wages are so much higher here, but this risks fuelling the feelings of a minority,” he warned.

Labour MP Keith Vaz criticised the Conservatives/ Liberal Democrats coalition for failing to estimate the numbers who could arrive from Romania and Bulgaria from next year.

Home secretary Theresa May has played down the numbers who might come, but the home office’s top official has taken a different view.

“Olympic-style preparations are being prepared, according to the permanent secretary in the home office, while the home secretary says it is business as usual,” he went on.

Mr Vaz said that he and a Conservative colleague, Mark Reckless, will be “at Luton Airport for the 7.40am flight from Romania” on January 1st to see the numbers for themselves.

Mr Mills had tried to delay the January 1st lifting of restriction by amending an Immigration Bill that had been put before the House of Commons.

However, he was scuppered in that by prime minister David Cameron, who has to placate his Eurosceptic MPs and also stay on the right side of EU law.

The legislation was subsequently withdrawn from the Commons calendar. This was welcomed by Labour’s Ed Miliband, allowing to avoid declaring his hand.

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy

Mark Hennessy is News Editor of the The Irish Times