By Jack Peat, Editor of The London Economic
Twenty fourteen has begun with a shameful dose of xenophobia as ‘floods’ of Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants ‘invade’ British shores, pillaging our lax benefits system and ‘robbing’ hard-working Brits of much-needed employment.
Scaremongering and sensationalism are commonplace in the dark corners of the British media, particularly among publications which use it as a life line to dupe those with more fear than sense to disperse with their 50p pieces. As economic uncertainty continues to cloud first world countries, fueling public outrage by targeting immigrants has made easy pickings of the British public. As a consequence, we have developed a new reflex reaction in the shape of xenophobia, which has made us ignorant to the reality of free labour movement.
Worryingly, it is not only right-wing stalwarts such as The Express and The Telegraph driving our prejudiced account of an economically prudent policy (which we drove through European Parliament). It seems even the bastions of libertarianism are jumping on the bandwagon. The BBC has been particularly biased in its coverage and The Guardian has taken a lurch to the right in condemning the controlled relaxation of immigration policy in the UK.
Not only are these reports misleading – airline companies have reported a standard amount of traffic – but they are also completely misguided, in that they concentrate purely on over capacity, a weak jobs market and benefit scams, all of which are comparatively non-issues when compared to the good intentions most immigrants travel with.
On 1 January 2014 Bulgarians and Romanians gained the same rights as other EU citizens to work throughout the European Union. Ensue the ‘flood’ of impoverished third worlders, the papers cried, as an near empty Wizz Air flight landed in Luton, carrying one beleaguered traveller as a single scrap of meat for the press.
The sensationalised prophesies of an eastern European ‘wave’ of immigrants has failed to materialise. Mihai Fertig, an operator of coach services from Romania to the UK, told Euronews he is not counting on a boom in business, saying “the majority of the people who want to work abroad are already there.”
Bulgaria’s President Rosen Plevneliev urged Britons to ignore negative tabloid headlines and look instead at academic studies which suggest migrants have helped Britain’s economy. Unfortunately, Mr Plevneliev, we have proved this week that research-based knowledge has little or no appeal compared to prophesised sensationalism in the press.
For anyone who has been subconsciously duped by the reporting of the BULMANIA INVASION, brace yourself for a rather underused journalistic tool; research-based facts and figures.
The National Institute of Economic and Social Research published a report entitled the ‘Potential impacts on the UK of future migration from Bulgaria and Romania’, exploring how free movement of labour between the three countries would impact British society and its economy. It’s first prophecy (which has since materialised), is that the main destination countries for EU2 migrants would be Spain and Italy and, to a lesser extent, Germany. Therefore, the UK’s already small population of Bulgarian and Romanian people would likely to be relatively unchanged – hardly the migration flood we’ve been reading about.
The economic impact of Bulgarian and Romanian immigration is likely to be positive. Young, healthy workers looking for employment will be the chief drivers of immigration, the report found, which takes the strain off public services and instead funds the public pocket in the form of taxation and general spend in the economy.
A study by University College London on immigrants to the UK since 2000 found they have made a “substantial” contribution to public finances, reporting immigrants were less likely to claim benefits and live in social housing than people born in Britain. The authors said rather than being a “drain”, their contribution had been “remarkably strong”.
So why so sad?
Immigration falls prey to reflex reactions rather than considered thought. It is unfortunate that the first week of 2014 was mired by xenophobia, but as we move into the New Year we can only hope that initial fears are washed away by the reality of a healthy immigration policy, which is one that brings economic prosperity, rather than the doom and gloom scenarios prophesised by our misleading and misguided press outlets.