Bulgaria plays down UK fears of uncontrolled migration

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Bulgaria has renewed calls for the United Kingdom to remove restrictions against its jobseekers.

Gergana Grancharova, Bulgaria's Euro-Affairs Minister, said that a recent survey left the UK out of a list of top three destinations that Bulgarians covet and highlighted a lack of problems with illegal Bulgarian immigrants residing in Britain.

"There are only four Bulgarian nationals who were forcefully brought back from London to Sofia since the country joined the European Union on January 1, 2007. Two of them were residing illegally and the other two were working illegally in the United Kingdom," she said during a radio interview.

"The figures show that Bulgarian migrants should not be an issue for the United Kingdom," she added.

She called on the UK to defend its reputation as "a pioneer in liberalizing the labor market". The UK was one of only three European Union states to open its labor market to the first wave of new-member states that joined the bloc in 2004.

"I see no reason why this can not be applied to Bulgaria as well," Grancharova said.

The UK Home Office is expected to recommend that the current EU restrictions continue for at least another year. According to EU law, they must open their labor market by 2012.

Currently, citizens of Bulgaria and Romania can only come to work in the UK under the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) and the Sectors Based Scheme (SBS), both aimed at lower skilled workers.

Grancharova doesn't feel that the UK should worry about a massive wave of Bulgarian workers.

"Bulgaria is a small country and even as things are now, it is unable to create huge obstacles for the labour market of the United Kingdom. What is important is that we emit positive signals and have fewer and fewer reports of illegal Bulgarian migrants."