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Contrepreneurs flooding to UK from Eastern Europe

Revealed.. simple loophole that lets immigrants pose as self-employed builders, barmen plumbers & even lapdancers to be cut-price labor. Tens of thousands of migrants from lapdancers to bar staff are flooding into Britain by exploiting a jobs loophole.

The workers from Bulgaria and Romania pretend to be self-employed when they are really unskilled cheap labor. There are strict rules stopping unskilled workers from the two countries coming to Britain. But we have no powers to stop people coming to set up a business. So shady job agencies in the two former Communist countries are helping people to pose as entrepreneurs, then come to the UK to work as hotel staff or odd job men on the minimum wage. And many women come as lapdancers and hookers. Our undercover reporter met one dodgy dealer supplying girls to work as pole dancers. The dealer said: “Don't worry. They do not need work permits. They can get a National Insurance number and work as self-employed.”

Former Home Secretary John Reid announced strict limits on Bulgarian and Romanian workers last year. But he admitted: “The terms of the Accession Treaty do not allow us to place restrictions on EU nationals' rights to come here to set up a business. So the self-employed will continue to be able to work here, if they can prove when challenged they are genuine.” And The People's investigation shows it's a loophole already being abused on a wide scale. Other migrants are pulling a similar con by obtaining work permits meant for those with specialist skills. Sir Andrew Green, chairman of think-tank Migration Watch UK, said: “This is a gaping hole in the system which clearly Romanians and Bulgarians are taking advantage of.”

In the Romanian capital Bucharest, our undercover reporter told the Star Promotions agency he ran a series of lapdancing clubs and brothels across England and needed new girls. Radu Mihai Ghinescu, the firm's boss, said: “I can help. I already know about the UK market. I worked at some clubs there for a while.” Our investigator said he was worried about how the girls would get work permits because of the restrictions. Ghinescu said they could work as self-employed. The girls would pay him for sorting out their self-employed status in the UK. But Ghinescu said our man would be expected to pay for the air fare and give him £5 ($10) a day for each girl. He revealed he already had 40-plus girls working in Scotland and dozens more in London - all using the same scam. Asked whether the girls would work as hookers, he laughed and said: “That is their problem.”

In the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, Dean Ivanov is the boss of Meridian Consult agency. He offers the self-employed route for many workers, including builders. He said: “We organize the self employed documentation for the people. They pay us a fee for that. All we ask is you meet them from the airport and provide reasonable accommodation. And pay them the minimum wage, £5.35 an hour.” But he also offers to get hospitality staff in on a skilled work permit known as WP1. These are issued when an employer cannot find a suitable candidate in Britain or the EU. He said: “We take care of it all with your Home Office. Say you want a barman, we tell the Home Office that you need a very experienced bar manager and you cannot find one. We even arrange some job adverts, which we say you have placed and not had any response to, as proof you have tried. But don't worry - they agree to work as usual worker.” Ivanov said he could supply lots of people and the paperwork just takes six weeks. An undercover Bulgarian journalist contacted other agencies as a potential worker for the UK. She was repeatedly told she would have no problem setting up as self-employed.

Ministers promised that unskilled migrants from the two countries - who joined the EU in January - would face tough restrictions on coming here. It followed a public outcry over the influx of 600,000 jobseekers from eight other Eastern European countries, including Poland and Slovakia. Ministers had predicted only 5,000 to 13,000 a year when those countries joined the EU in 2004 - despite allowing them unrestricted access to Britain's jobs market. Since then, there have been complaints that employment, schools and public services have come under strain. Slough council, for example, asked for £15 million in emergency funding to cope.

When Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU seven months ago, a leaked Government report even highlighted fears that 45,000 “undesirables with links to crime” would head to Britain. Worryingly, the self-employed loophole could provide gangsters with a legally safe way of entering Britain. Most recent Home Office figures show in the first three months of this year, around 115 Romanians and Bulgarians a day were given the right to work in the UK as self-employed or on a skills permit. It means more than 40,000 may come for work in 2007. But critics point out that will be much higher as more migrants catch on to the loophole scam. (people.co.uk)