Thousands of Bulgarians and Romanians 'plan to flood UK in 2014' as employment restrictions relax
Nick Craven and George Arbuthnott
01:25 GMT, 27 January 2013
04:09 GMT, 27 January 2013
Hordes of Romanians and Bulgarians are already preparing to head for Britain in search of work, according to a Mail on Sunday investigation.
Employment restrictions will be relaxed on December 31, and the UK will throw open its Jobcentres and benefit offices to what pressure group Migration Watch predicts could be as many as 70,000 people a year for the next five years.
The Government refuses to reveal its own estimates and the authorities in Romania and Bulgaria are sceptical of Migration Watch figures, but have not compiled their own.
Flying the flag: The Best Opportunity Agency in Bucharest is expected to help Romanians travel to Britain
However, our research in the EU’s two poorest countries found plenty of migrants among their combined populations of 29 million waiting for the chance to travel to Britain.
As soon as they find a job, they will also become eligible for a raft of income-related benefits far more generous than anything on offer in their home countries.
Access to welfare payments in Britain is easier than in either Germany or France, which will be relaxing work restrictions at the same time.
One job agency in Bucharest told our undercover reporter it already has hundreds registering for work in the UK from 2014 and the waiting list is so long they are no longer accepting applications.
Posing as a jobseeker, the Romanian reporter was told there was no point in even putting her name on a waiting list to travel to the UK in 2014 because of the huge numbers of her compatriots who had already applied.
Bosses at two other Romanian work-placement companies said they expected to send record numbers to Britain when open access is granted to the jobs market in the New Year.
As soon as they find a job, migrants (not pictured) will also become eligible for a raft of income-related benefits far more generous than anything on offer in their home countries
The reporter approached three Romanian employment agencies stating she was an unemployed graduate who was struggling to find work in Romania and was keen to take advantage of the change in the law and move to Britain.
At the Albatross Travel agency’s offices in north-west Bucharest, a staff member told her the firm routinely arranged coach-loads of migrants to be driven to Britain to take up jobs on farms.
But the agent added: ‘We have so many people who want to travel to Britain in 2014 because of the lifting of the work permit restriction, there is no point in even putting you on the waiting list.’
An agent for Blue Mountain Recruitment in Bacau, north-eastern Romania, said there were likely to be large numbers of British job opportunities if she returned later in the year.
‘Currently it’s very hard to find a job without a contract,’ he said. ‘But in 2014 that will change and we’re hoping to send many more people than we have before.’
Tatiana Geogea, director of Best Opportunity in northern Bucharest, expects her company to help at least 1,000 Romanians travel to Britain next year – the company’s previous record was 700 people in a year.
‘There is little doubt the numbers will increase,’ she said. ‘I just don’t think the English are willing to pick strawberries on a farm. Romanians have a terrific work ethic.’
Across the Danube in the Zhenski Pazar market in Sofia, Bulgaria, virtually everyone we spoke to said they would come to Britain.
‘I would love to go there and next year I will take my family,’ said Roma cigarette vendor Plamen Aljoshev, a 53-year-old father of two.
Slavka Mitova, 29, a mother of two who runs a butcher’s shop in Sofia, said: ‘There is no future here. The young people should go to England and make money.’
Why England ‘Partly because of the language – young people are speaking some English,’ she said, ‘but your country has a reputation for fairness and treating people well.’
While the minimum wage in the UK is 6.19 per hour, in Bulgaria it is just 73p. Romania is not much better at 79p.
Meanwhile, the average weekly wage in Bulgaria is 63.50 and 86 in Romania.
The only state benefit available in either country is child benefit, which is 3.50 per child per week in Bulgaria and 3.69 in Romania. In Britain, a single person can claim up to 71 a week in jobseekers’ allowance and a couple can claim 111. Housing benefit varies depending on local authorities. Child benefit adds another 20.30 a week for the first child and 13.40 for each one after that.
The Department of Work and Pensions confirmed to The Mail on Sunday that visitors from the European Economic Area who demonstrate that they ‘have or retain worker status may be able to claim income-based jobseekers’ allowance, income support, housing benefit, council tax benefit, income-related employment and support allowance, and state pension credit’.
‘We are obliged under EU law to pay some income-related benefits to EEA workers, self-employed people and jobseekers,’ said a spokesman.
From January 1, 2014 that will also include the Bulgarians and Romanians.