Government "dramatically" underestimates immigrant figures

13-07-2006

Government "dramatically" underestimates immigrant figures
The Conservative party has accused the government of "dramatically" underestimating the number of eastern Europeans coming to work in Britain, following the release of new research.

A survey of 500 Polish workers in the UK, carried out for BBC Two's Newsnight programme, found that 30 per cent had failed to register their presence, while a further six per cent had never heard of the worker's register which migrant workers from new EU states are required to sign.

Official figures show that about 375,000 eastern European workers have registered for employment in the UK since the EU expanded in May 2004.

But the BBC survey, carried out by researchers from the universities of Surrey and Roehampton, suggests that around 187,000 more may be working in the UK without the government's knowledge.

The shadow home secretary, David Davis, said the survey implied that the number of eastern European immigrants in the UK was "dramatically more" than the 13,000 a year the government originally estimated would enter the country following an agreement to admit workers from new accession states.

"This will put an incredible level of pressure on housing and public services and is a much higher level than the government calculated for when it entered into this short-sighted open borders policy," said Mr Davis.

The Newsnight survey also suggests that an increasing number of eastern European workers are planning to stay in Britain in the long-term.

More than 40 per cent of Poles questioned said they intended to stay in the country for at least two years, while 15 per cent said they had decided to move here permanently.

Just one in three said they planned to go home within the next two years, while almost a third were planning to bring their families to the UK, or had already done so.

Unemployment and low wage rates in Poland were the main reasons respondents gave for deciding to migrate to the UK.

A spokesman for the Home Office insisted that 97 per cent of those signing up to its worker registration scheme were in full time work and "not placing a burden on the public services".

"Accession nationals are part of the European Union and have the right to travel freely throughout member states," he added.

Romania and Bulgaria are due to join the EU at the beginning of next year, but ministers have yet to announce whether their citizens will enjoy the same employment benefits as workers from other eastern European countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary and Latvia.

Related categories: Public Sector.


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