UK ministers refuse to predict immigration levels from Romania, Bulgaria

The UK's Prime Minister David Cameron has said that it is impossible to know how many immigrants will come to the UK from Romania and Bulgaria next year when transitional immigration controls as allowed under EU law ends.

Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union in 2009. When a country joins the EU, this confers various freedoms on citizens of that country. One of these is the freedom of movement to work in other EU countries. Because new EU member states tend to have less developed economies than long-standing EU countries, EU law allows the governments of "old" EU nations to introduce temporary immigration controls on free movement rights of citizens of the new EU Countries. This is to prevent a rush of workers leaving the less wealthy EU accession country for better opportunities in another more prosperous EU Country. These 'transitional controls' can last for up to five years.

Transitional controls

Thus, in 2004, when 10 countries, including Poland, the Czech Republic and other former communist countries of Eastern Europe, joined the EU, France, Italy and Germany and most EU Countries introduced transitional controls making it difficult for citizens of the new EU nations to work in most of the old EU Countries.

The only EU countries that did not introduce such controls were the UK, Ireland and Sweden. At the time, the UK Home Office issued an official estimate that 13,000 people would come to the UK from the new European Union Countries in the first year.

It is not known how many people eventually came to the UK from the 2004 accession countries but estimates for the number who have come to the UK since 2004 range between 1 and 2 million.

'Impossible to say' how many Romanians will come to UK

The UK's Communities Secretary Eric Pickles was asked on Sunday 13th January 2013 on the BBC's Sunday Politics programme to estimate how many people might come to the UK from the 2009 accession countries Bulgaria and Romania. Mr Pickles said that it was impossible to say. He said that his department had made an estimate but that he refused to say what it was as he had no confidence in the figures provided. 'The truth is, I don't think anybody entirely knows the numbers.' He said the highest numbers would probably go to the areas of London that already have high population numbers from those countries. He said that he thought it unlikely that the numbers would be as high as 300,000 as some more alarmist commentators have predicted. However, he acknowledged that a large influx could cause problems in London.

Mr Cameron said later that Mr Pickles had been right to refuse to make a prediction.' I completely support what Eric Pickles has said, which is 'don't make official predictions unless and until you've got real confidence in those figures.'

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