POLITICS

Romanian Ambassador Attacks 'Insulting And Alarmist' Campaign Against Immigration

02/01/2014 12:27 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 15:52 GMT
Jennifer Cockerell/PA Wire
Home Affairs Select Committee Chairman Keith Vaz (left) greets arrivals at Luton Airport, including Victor Spiresau (right), as the first Romanians and Bulgarians with unrestricted access to the UK labour market have begun to arrive despite last-ditch efforts to prevent a feared wave of fresh immigration.

The Romanian ambassador to the UK has attacked the "alarmist" British media for predicting his fellow citizens would flood across the border on January 1.

Romanians and Bulgarians now have the same rights to live and work in the UK as all other EU citizens, after transitional controls were lifted on New Year's Day. Anti-immigration politicians, including Ukip's Nigel Farage and several Conservative MPs, have claimed that the UK is not able to absorb a large number of new migrants from eastern Europe.

Several newspapers have also ramped up the rhetoric. Yesterday's Daily Express ran the front page headline 'BENEFITS BRITAIN, HERE WE COME!' And the Daily Star decided to focus on the suggestions that Roma migrants are criminals with the headline 'NEW YEAR'S THIEVE'.

Writing for The Huffington Post UK today, ambassador Ion Jinga says the "insulting media campaign against Romanians" was not based on evidence.

"Most Romanians who came to the UK did so for work, not for benefits. We also plead in favour of honest, hard-working people, who pay taxes and contribute to society," he says.

"It comes as a great surprise to see how attitudes towards Romania have become so easily formed by misguided and biased opinions."

Jinga also mocked the journalists and "distinguished British MPs" who decided to descend on Luton airport yesterday to witness the arrival of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants.

"They have discovered that only two Romanians came to the UK to take advantage of the lifting of border restrictions, and both having firm job offers - one washing cars, the other as a doctor in Essex," he notes.

"The overwhelming majority of the passengers were Romanians returning to jobs after having enjoyed Christmas with their families at home, or Britons coming home after skiing in the Carpathians."

The chairman of the home affairs committee, Keith Vaz, was among the politicians who decided to spend their New Year's Day at the arrivals lounge of Luton airport to see if the deluge would arrive.

The ambassador compares the desperation of some politicians and journalists for there to be a flood of migrants to the "tragicomic" play Waiting for Godot - in which the main characters "wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone".

He adds: "I must confess that my wife and I are guilty of bringing Romanians to the UK for Christmas and New Year celebrations: our daughter came from Brussels and a family of friends from Romania. As all these three persons will be leaving Britain in the next few days, I therefore hope they will not be counted to the millions of Romanians expected to invade the island."

Romania joined the EU in 2007, and Jinga insists that most of those wanting to work abroad have already taken advantage of this possibility.

"Taking into account the near-exhaustion of Romania's potential to 'export' workers and the fact that my country is now the fastest-growing economy in the EU, lifting restrictions on 1 January 2014 is unlikely to lead to a massive increase in the number of Romanians coming to the UK," he says.

SEE ALSO: Keith Vaz: Cameron's Hard Rhetoric on Migration Will Only Make EU Negotiations Tougher