Wednesday, December 26, 2012

In a year up to 29 million Romanians and Bulgarians will have the right to settle in Britain and claim benefits

And many from the gipsy community can hardly wait

Olympic boxer Bobby George stands on an icy street in the Bulgarian shanty town where he grew up.

A cruel wind whips his dark hair as snow falls on the chaotic rows of shacks which are home to 50,000 of the European Union’s poorest inhabitants.

Plunging his freezing hands into his thin leather jacket, he says despairingly: ‘There is nothing for my gipsy people here.

Their eyes are turning to England where they can have a better life. Hundreds of families want to go to the UK because they have no future in my country.’

George is lucky. Five years ago, he changed his name from Boris Georgiev and left the seedy slum of Fakulteta, on the outskirts of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, to settle in Luton, Beds, with his wife, Tina, and daughter, Gergana, now six. They have since had another daughter, one-year-old Mari.

A couple of weeks ago he returned on a cut-price flight for Christmas and found nothing much has changed.  Growling stray dogs chase each other down alleyways, rats scamper over piles of rubbish, and children in slippers, long outgrown with their backs cut out, dodge horse-drawn gipsy carts as they run to the few shops for a 40p loaf of bread.

The Sofia bus route does not reach Fakulteta because the drivers refuse to go there, as do the rubbish collection men. At night, the place is pitched into darkness because there is no street lighting.

The only indication that the city authorities recognise the huge gipsy town’s existence is the electricity meter boxes bolted tightly to the tops of telegraph poles so they cannot be tampered with by residents.

The main supermarket — the owner is himself a gipsy — has stopped all credit because of the debts racked up for unpaid groceries.

No wonder that in a year’s time, when a total of 29 million Bulgarians (and Romanians) gain the right to live, work, and claim state benefits in Britain under EU ‘freedom of movement’ rules, a great many families from Fakulteta plan to decamp the 1,250 miles to the UK.

‘The gipsies have no jobs because ordinary Bulgarians do not like or trust us,’ explains Bobby George.

‘We are discriminated against as gipsy people. In Britain it is different. You treat everyone, black, white, brown or yellow, just the same. Of course, they will want to go.

‘But there will be a day when your country is full up, when you cannot afford to give benefits to any more people from Europe and the rest of the world, too. They hope to get there before that moment happens.’

Bobby, a good-looking 30-year-old with a pugilist’s nose, is probably right about Britain nearing its limits.

The latest Census, published this month, reveals how mass immigration has dramatically changed our country. Since EU borders were opened up in 2004, 1,114,368 Eastern Europeans have uprooted to live in England.   Last year, 40,000 Bulgarians and Romanians moved to the UK, joining 130,000 of their countrymen who have settled here during the past decade.

But these numbers are nothing compared with the flood of migrants expected when the rules change in a little over a year’s time.

Until now, migrants from the two former communist nations (officially barred from working or claiming benefits in Britain until the freedom of movement rule comes in on January 1, 2014) have neatly exploited a gaping loophole in the EU rules.

It allows Bulgarians and Romanians claiming to be self-employed to get a British national insurance number and a raft of hand-outs, including housing and child benefit.

Many of the new arrivals have worked hard, cornering the market in car-wash companies, for instance.  But others are less industrious,  and include Roma gipsies who, remarkably, now sell a third of all copies of the Big Issue.

Even selling one copy a week of the magazine (created to help the British homeless) miraculously gives them self-employed status and allows them to beg with impunity outside shops and on street corners.

Bulgarian and Romanian incomers have been blamed by police in their own countries and in Britain for a massive rise in organised crime, including the trafficking of children to Britain to beg, pickpocket, milk state benefits and even enter the sex trade.

It is estimated that 2,000 children from Romania and Bulgaria are under the control of modern-day Fagins in our major cities.

According to Scotland Yard, a skilful child thief can make up to £100,000 a year ‘working’ on the streets, buses and Tubes in London — cash that is sent back to Roma villages and towns at home.

So critical is the problem that Bulgaria’s Deputy Prime Minister visited Britain earlier this month to meet Home Secretary Theresa May to discuss how child trafficking and other organised crimes can be controlled when the UK doors swing open yet more widely.

Meanwhile, Antoaneta Vassileva, head of Bulgaria’s National Commission for Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, warns that the UK is now the EU hot-spot for Roma child pickpockets from her country — a problem that will almost certainly get worse when the rules change in a year’s time.

The attitude that Britain is a land where benefits flow like milk and honey is commonplace — even though few of these Roma people speak any English and would struggle to point to Britain on a map.

The Roma, who call themselves ‘gipsy’ proudly because it means ‘free man’ in their language, are an ignored under-class in Eastern Europe.

Back in the communist era, they were protected and were guaranteed jobs — like every adult in Bulgaria.

‘Now everything has changed,’ says Mari. ‘I have to go to the rubbish tip in Sofia to rifle through other people’s throw-outs to find something to sell so my family can eat. You can see why we like Britain where everyone is treated fairly.’

Bobby George, who is acting as my guide, nods in agreement as he listens to the conversation.

The boxer won a bronze medal for Bulgaria as a light welterweight in the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. After turning professional, he left for the UK.

‘I went to Luton because that is where there are cheap flights to Bulgaria. I rent a small flat for my family and half of the £550-a-month rent is paid by housing benefit and, of course, we get the state benefits for the two children.

‘When I am not in training, I try to work. I have done labouring jobs and, officially, I am self-employed so I have a national insurance card. My wife works as a cleaner sometimes, too.’

Bobby — who boxed his way to success via the local Sofia fitness centre — is a devout Christian, like most of the Roma in Bulgaria. On Saturday night, he takes me to  the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Fakulteta for the weekly service of worship.

There is perfect singing by the small choir of women, and the visiting pastor stands up at the pulpit to deliver a sermon.

The theme is on obeying the Ten Commandments — and, particularly, the virtue of not stealing.

There is not a flicker of an eyelid in the small whitewashed church as the congregation listens intently to his words. And, at the end, the Roma people bow their heads in prayer and say Amen.

There are decent people here — and Bobby George, with his sporting talent and determination to succeed, is proof that many migrants wish only to strive hard and provide for their families.

But it would be misguided to ignore the concerns that he, and many others, voice at the impact on Britain when we swing open the doors to these hard-pressed people, so marginalised and mistrusted in their own lands.


Australia' conservatives  claim latest boat arrivals bring number of asylum-seekers to 25,000 under current Leftist Government

TWO more boats have arrived in Australian waters, which the opposition claims brings the number of asylum-seekers travelling to Australia by sea under the government's watch to 25,000.

HMAS Melville and HMAS Albany were called to help a suspected irregular entry vessel near Christmas Island on Sunday.

It is believed 87 passengers and three crew were on board. They will be transferred to Christmas Island for the usual security, health and identity checks.

A separate vessel with 35 people on board sailed into Australian waters north-west of Cocos Island on Friday.

Coalition border protection spokesman Michael Keenan said this meant 25,000 people had now travelled to Australia by boat during the Gillard government's watch.

"One of the main excuses Julia Gillard had for outing former prime minister Kevin Rudd was his failure to protect Australia's borders," he said in a statement on Monday night.

"Given that over 25,000 people on more than 400 boats have arrived under her leadership, then by her own measure she has categorically failed to restore any control to Australia's borders and stop the boats from coming."

He called for more funding and personnel for frontline border protection agencies.

"The Australian Customs and Border Protection Service has been spread so thin that merchant vessels, Australian Navy ships and Customs vessels are being used as water taxis because our patrol vessels are so overworked and rundown that they are literally cracking under the pressure," he said.


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