Saturday, October 21, 2006

UK reacts sharply to Eastern European migration

Source: UK restricts migrants - Guardian

The British government reacted in what critics are calling a knee-jerk fashion when it decided to pull the plug on its “open door” policy on immigrants in order to cease the flow of Eastern Europeans from countries like Romania; the drastic measure was taken in response to the recent inclusion of such countries in the EU.

Home Secretary John Reid defended the decision as necessary, saying that such immigrants are flowing into his country in numbers that the economy and workforce cannot sustain; the fear of working-class Britons about the impact on their jobs is reflected in the decision. However, the UK faces criticism for the disparate treatment shown to Poland: it gave the latter’s migrants unlimited access to its country in 2004.

The decision has yet to be cleared by cabinet colleagues and is still being finalized; it is expected to allow a limited number of unskilled workers for routine jobs like fruit picking, but offer no general right to work. Britain is not allowed to stop citizens of any new EU countries from moving to the UK, but by taking away the promise of jobs it gives would-be migrants a huge disincentive for choosing to do so.

Meanwhile, critics say the number of current and potential migrants used as a justification for the decision is greatly exaggerated, and that the UK is unfairly denigrating the image of Romanians and Bulgarians. Critics also argue that allowing unlimited access would decrease the incentive for illegal labor, and help fuel economic growth.


- Is Britain correct in its cost-benefit analysis of the Eastern European migration issue? Will this hostile treatment of Romania and Bulgaria stymie faith in the EU as a unified region of governments?

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