Friday, January 18, 2013

Labour got it wrong on immigration, admits Miliband

Ed Miliband has suggested he could limit foreigners’ rights to benefits in the UK as he apologised for Labour’s failures on immigration.

In an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme Mr Miliband admitted that the last Labour government was not “sufficiently alive to people's concerns” over immigration.

The Labour leader said his party got “the numbers wrong” when estimating the number of migrants who would flock to the UK when restrictions on movements from Poland and other Eastern European countries were lifted in 2004.

He suggested that he would in future consider limiting immigrants' rights to benefits in the UK.

“We didn’t get this right in government because I think we underestimated the impact,” Mr Miliband said. “We did get the numbers wrong… I don’t think we were sufficiently alive to people’s concerns once people had come into this country.”

He made the comments as MigrationWatch suggested that 250,000 migrants from Bulgaria and Romania could head to the UK for work when working restrictions are lifted at the end of the year.

MigrationWatch said 50,000 migrants a year for the next five years could try to come to settle in the UK, based on analysis of the numbers who came from Poland and other eastern European countries into the UK after 2004.

Ministers have repeatedly refused to give estimates on how many Romanians and Bulgarians will come to the UK when restrictions are lifted on December 31 this year.

Mr Miliband said immigrants' rights to benefits in the UK “should be looked at” in the future.

“Yes, that is an issue that should be looked at,” Mr Miliband said. “Of course that’s an issue that should be looked at, the length of entitlement to benefits and how quickly people can get them.

“All of these issues would be on the table as we seek to manage our relationship with the European Union, and as we seek to manage migration. I actually think that diversity helps our country. But it can’t just work for some and not for all.”

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph Ion Jinga, the Romanian Ambassador to London, suggested that the number migrants from his country will be in the low tens of thousands, possibly as low as 10,000 a year, and nothing like the hundreds of thousands of Poles who came to live in the UK after 2004.

Mr Jinga said: “It is totally ungrounded to circulate in the media that hundreds of thousands of Romanians will come, it will be an invasion.

"‘They will take our jobs, they will take our houses’. Come on! If it was not related to real human beings I would consider it to be a joke.”


Up to 70,000 Romanian and Bulgarian migrants a year ‘will come to Britain’ when controls on EU migrants expire

Up to 70,000 Bulgarians and Romanians will travel to Britain each year when they finally gain open access to the jobs  market, a report claims today.

Almost 29million people from the two countries will be free to work in Britain from the end of this year when temporary controls on new EU migrants expire.

But although ministers have their own estimate of the scale of the influx, they refuse to reveal it.

The figure is likely to be the crucial factor in deciding whether the Government will hit the Prime Minister’s goal of cutting net migration – the difference between those arriving and leaving each year – to ‘tens of thousands’

The report by the pressure group MigrationWatch says Romanians and Bulgarians will add between 30,000 and 70,000 to our population in each of the next five years. This is partly based on the events of 2004 when immigration soared after Poland and seven other nations joined the EU.

The report estimates an average of 50,000 Romanians and Bulgarians will arrive here each year, a total of 250,000.

But it warns the figure could soar if Roma gipsies or the nearly 1million Romanians already in other EU countries also come.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, but the number who could take jobs here was capped at 25,000 for low-skilled workers. That limit expires this year.

The study explains why Britain is likely to be attractive to Romanians and Bulgarians. Both are relatively poor with a minimum wage of around £1 an hour, compared to £6.19 here, and income per head of about a fifth of Britain’s. In addition, destinations such as Spain, Italy and France have high youth unemployment.

The UK also offers full benefits when immigrants find work, including housing and child benefit and child tax credit.

MigrationWatch chairman Sir Andrew Green said: ‘It is not good enough to duck making an estimate of immigration. It is likely to have significant consequences for housing and services. It will also add to the competition young workers face.’

David Cameron indicated he did not have confidence in Government figures, saying the estimated influx of around 14,000 Poles in 2004 turned out to be ‘ridiculously low’.

The Home Office said it was looking at ‘factors that may encourage EU nationals to come to the UK’.


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