Integration is the best policy for 2014’s Romanian and Bulgarian migrants
Jonathan Lindsell, 18 November 2013
On 1 January 2014, Romanian and Bulgarian citizens will gain all the same rights as French, German and Dutch ex-pats in the UK. Some will come to Britain, although nobody is sure how many. The government are cagey about their estimates after spectacularly underestimating the number of ‘A8’ citizens wanting to come in 2004. MigrationWatchUK estimate about 250,000 in 5 years, Migration Matters only 20,000, and a BBC poll implies c.119,000 total. Our borders services don’t collect enough data for accurate estimates.
Although it’s unlikely that they’ll all descend on one seaside town on New Year’s Day demanding JSA, social housing and dental treatment, estimates do suggest numbers so substantial that our already-straining services will be under severe pressure. Cameron has vowed to keep his belt permanently tight, but in this instance, he should show a little post-Christmas cheer, both for his own benefit and that of the country. Likely ‘pinch-points’ need a funding boost.
At the moment, government is doing very little to prepare for the Romanian-Bulgarian influx other than to moan that it will happen. That’s a complete fait accompli. It cannot be helped.
What can be helped is newcomer integration. Nick Clegg, David Blunkett and Peter Oborne all warn that another migrant influx will cause such competition for services, jobs and public spaces that severe social tension could result. Even Roger Daltrey is worried. This has eerie echoes of Enoch Powell’s ‘River Tiber’ speech – but unlike the Wilson government Powell savaged, Cameron cannot stop the migrants. Instead, he must look to the other side of the equation.
Oxford development economist Paul Collier has written a study of global migration, Exodus, which describes the ghettoization and alienation of migrant diasporas allowed into new countries, but not integrated. He lucidly argues that migration-driven tensions are reduced by assimilating newcomers into domestic culture, at least in language ability, respect for law, and employment behaviour. Collier uses himself as an example – a third generation descendant of rural German migrants, few would label him an unwelcome foreigner.
This is not as difficult as it sounds: trends show future migrants are likely to cluster in areas that already house significant ex-pat communities. Areas of London and the south with Bulgarian/Romanian populations should receive extra funding to prepare for the extra workload. At the moment, despite the efforts of Lord Roberts of Llandudno and Sunder Katwala to highlight this pinch-point approach, the only action has been the secondment of eight Romanian police to London.
If Cameron sticks his head in the ground, he risks being outmanoeuvred by UKIP, who are sure to trumpet every instance of Romanians/Bulgarians stealing jobs, not having jobs, committing crimes, visiting hospitals and speaking foreign languages. Farage’s General Election chances will blossom.
But if Cameron can make January 2014 a smooth success, seamlessly welcoming new migrants that contribute to our economic recovery, he’ll paint himself as in control and will be better able to renegotiate our EU membership with commanding authority and a nation’s support.