Bulgaria, Romania counter anti-immigrant campaigns


Fears of potential influx of Bulgarians and Romanians to Great Britain has spurred reactions and also initiated positive ideas.

By Tzvetina Borisova for Southeast European Times in Sofia -- 16/02/13


Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants, like the group above obtaining British citizenship, claim they have added value to their new homeland. [AFP]

A campaign launched by Great Britain to stem an expected immigration wave from Bulgaria and Romania after labour restrictions on the two countries are lifted on January 1st 2014, has sparked counter-initiatives in the hope of turning the situation into a positive one.

The campaign highlights negative aspects of living in Britain to dissuade potential immigrants from the two EU-member countries. "Please do not come to Britain -- it rains and jobs are scarce and low-paid," is one of the slogans it offered.

But some view the British campaign as an opportunity for Bulgaria and Romania to overcome negative stereotyping and to advertise their positives.

"Why not convince all British pensioners to move to Bulgaria instead -- it is cheaper, calmer, the nature is pristine and the weather is nice. We can even make brochures and videos of the British and their personal arguments to move out of the United Kingdom. Such a campaign would have a very positive effect on tourism," Yurukov said.

Romania's daily Gandul has done just that. It has launched a counter campaign directed at British citizens "Why Do Not You Come Over?"

Its slogans to attract Britons to establish residency in Romania include "Our draft beer is less expensive than your bottled water," and "Your weekly rent covers a whole month here, pub nights included."

Some migration experts, like Zvezda Vankova of the Sofia-based Open Society Institute, said a migration from Bulgaria to Britain is unlikely.

"The big migration waves already occurred at the beginning of the transition period [after 1989] and the visa regime liberalisation in 2001. Furthermore, Bulgarians migrate mainly to Spain, where there are no limitations, and to Germany," Vankova told SETimes.

But Bulgarian blogger and policy analyst Stefan Stoyanov said Britain may have a reason to worry.

"Nearly 600,000 Polish immigrants reached Britain after Poland completed the EU accession process in 2004," Stoyanov told SETimes.

"Such a huge number of immigrants benefited the economy, but also brought some difficulties in the functioning of various systems in the places where many immigrants arrived suddenly -- education, healthcare, and sometimes [the social] order. ... So the current [British] media interest is not a precedent, and is not due to some special attitude towards Bulgaria and Romania," Stoyanov added.

Stoyanov said he is concerned that opening the labour markets will benefit those who profit from the unqualified who face extreme poverty in Bulgaria and Romania.

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"Life in the streets is not nice in any country and the number of homeless is one of the biggest problems for the [British] authorities. So I expect a smaller influx of qualified workers and a higher influx of people brought here by the so-called 'labour agencies' -- people that someone else will profit from and who have no chance whatsoever on the local labour market."

Since 2004, more than 155,000 Bulgarians and Romanians entered the United Kingdom, but many believe the number is much higher given the thousands of illegal immigrants.

But Alter Information said Britain has a large number of immigrants from all over the world, and Bulgarians who go there to work are hardly a problem.

"This whole campaign … [should target] the ones who go there with a clear goal of stealing, begging and prostituting," he said.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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