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UK’s immigration restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers to remain

Immigration restrictions imposed on Bulgarian and Romanian citizens seeking employment in the UK will remain in effect until at least the end of 2008, the Home Secretary’s office said.

The decision to continue restrictions was made at the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, according to Liam Byrne, Home Office Minister of State for Borders and Immigration. The restrictions, originally imposed before the countries joined the EU in January amid concerns about eastern European immigration, were due to lapse by the end of next year. Byrne told the BBC that today’s decision was inline with the government’s obligation to review the policy annually. Byrne said the restriction was intended to achieve a “prudent balance” between the needs of the economy and the impact on public services. The decision will be reviewed again after 12 months, and the minister indicated that the restrictions could remain in place until 2011.

The Home Office has clarified that the ban will restrict the numbers of unskilled workers but will not affect the self-employed. As per the EU rules, Romanians and Bulgarians are free to live in the UK and to take any job if self-employed. Although the ban on workers from the two former Soviet bloc nations is against the spirit of the “open-door” policy adopted towards the eight former communist states that joined the EU in 2004, it was forced to take such a decision after an unexpected influx of migrant workers to the UK in the following years. In place of 15,000 migrant workers estimated to arrive each year in UK, 600,000 arrived in two years. The number of foreign workers currently employed in the UK is estimated at closer to 1.1 million. (rttnews)