UK Immigration Minister says Britain will not be a “soft touch” for migrants from Bulgaria and Romania once the remaining curbs on working in Britain expire.Mark Harper told parliamentarians on Monday that the UK had no obligations to offer any more benefits to Bulgarians and Romanians seeking to come to the UK than treaties demand.
However, he added that the exaggerated forecasts about the number of potential immigrants expected to arrive from Romania and Bulgaria after the expiration of temporary restrictions at the end of 2013 were “not helpful.”
Labour restrictions for Bulgarians and Romanians wanting to come to the UK have been in place since since they joined the EU 2007 but they expire at the start of 2014.
Conservative ministers, who have vowed to reduce levels of net migration substantially, are under pressure from MPs to say how the UK will deal with a potential influx of new arrivals.
One Conservative MP, John Baron, noted that the UK’s minimum wage is six times higher than in Romania and Bulgaria.
“It is madness to open our borders to 29 million people when we have absolutely no idea how many are going to come to this country,” another MP, Philip Hollobone, agreed.
Harper responded that the government was examining the “pull” factors that encouraged migrants to come to the country.
“We want to make sure that when people look at the access to our benefits and our public services that no one thinks we are a soft touch,” he said, adding that ministers were taking steps to prevent such a scenario.
Harper dismissed allegations that ministers were planning to release adverts aimed at discouraging immigrants from coming to the UK, adding that people should not believe everything they read in the newspapers.
He emphasized that there was no way of presenting an accurate forecast about the number of potential arrivals because the restrictions will be lifted in eight other countries as well as in the UK.