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Big Debate: EU Immigration

15:20 17 January 2014

Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Steve Parsons/PA Wire/Press Association Images

PA Wire/Press Association Images

Each week we look at the major issues affecting east London and invite two people with opposing views to hive their side of the argument.

This week we’re looking at immigration within the European Union. You can vote in our poll below to have your say.

Since January 1 migration restrictions have been lifted from Romania and Bulgaria meaning that nationals from both countries looking for work could move freely among EU member states.

Fears that large numbers of foreign nationals will come to the UK has sparked debate over whether we should have more control over our own borders.

The CEO of a charity which supports refugees and migrants, and a Member of the European Parliament debate the issues and put their cases for and against immigration.

Gerard Batten, MEP for London (UKIP)

“Britain’s membership of the European Union means that our immigration policy is effectively uncontrolled and unlimited – and “indiscriminate” in the real meaning of the word.

We have no right to pick and choose our migrants because under EU law citizens from every member state have the right to come here.

Consequently, we don’t just get the doctors, nurses, the highly skilled and the law-abiding workers that we might choose to take, but we also get criminals, drug addicts, alcoholics, and vagrants, because if we barred them entry, it would be to “discriminate” against them and that would be against EU law.

Not only that but we are obliged to pay them benefits under the same EU law.

In 2004, the Labour government opened the door to the eastern European countries that joined the European Union. Labour said only about 13,000 people would come. So far more than one million have done so.

On January 1, the final restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian entry came down and another 29m people were given unrestricted right of entry to the UK.

It remains to be seen exactly how many will come, but even if just a small percentage do so, it will still mean hundreds of thousands of new migrants.

Immigration is neither good nor bad in itself, it depends entirely on the context and the numbers. England is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, and the UK has almost 2.5m unemployed, which is especially a problem for the young.

Mass uncontrolled immigration has driven wages down for those at the bottom of the economic scale and driven property prices up for everyone.

It is a disaster for Britain and the only way we can begin to control it is for us to leave the European Union.”

Rita Chadha, CEO Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL)

“It’s quite remarkable how much hysteria all the political parties have conjured up about Bulgaria and Romania.

The claim that from January 1 we would be inundated with eastern Europeans from the two countries has been completely unfounded.

At the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London we see on average between 150 to 200 people a week for advice and integration support services.

How many new Bulgarians and Romanians have we seen? Not a single one since January 1 this year.

We have seen only two Romanian clients and one of them has been here since 2009 and the other since 2011.

Nationally, there has been no increase in numbers, and no increase in passenger bookings on flights from Bulgaria and Romania.

Locally, in east London, Bulgarian and Romanians have mostly been working in construction. Mostly self-employed, they have rarely been entitled to benefits and council housing.

Few rely on our healthcare, as it is often cheaper to fly back home for treatment than wait in long queues here.

No doubt, there will be those among you who will read this and say, “Well, I know different,” and “It’s not like that down my street.”

But I guarantee you these are exceptions to the rule.

The facts speak for themselves, there is no “influx”, or “flood” of Bulgarians and Romanians, if there was, why would the NHS be going to Romania to recruit staff?

We have absolutely nothing to fear from any form of migration, whether from the EU or further afield. Migration has always been a part of our history and heritage, especially in east London, it adds to the economy, community and vibrancy of the our borough, for that we should all be justly proud.”

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