UK

Bulgaria Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Nikolay Mladenov, Dismisses 'Mass Hysteria' Surrounding Immigration Debate

03/01/2014 12:07 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT

Bulgaria's former foreign affairs minister has criticised the "mass hysteria" surrounding the immigration debate driven by the "far-right".

Nikolay Mladenov, who was Bulgaria's foreign affairs minister until last spring, said claims of a sudden influx of Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants to Britain in 2014 were "politically-motivated".

nikolay mladenov

Mr Mladenov, who is now the United Nations Special Representative to Iraq, told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that sensational claims had been "fanned out by some media outlets in the UK."

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

The accusations against migrants are "purely politically-motivated and that there is no reason to believe that the UK will be swarmed by waves of immigrants from Bulgaria," he added.

"I think it's been entirely driven by the far-right political agenda."

Mr Mladenov said the free movement of citizens had reciprocal benefits for both host country and guest resident.

"Most countries have benefited from open borders and from trade and from development in the European Union, so I don't think we should be searing of that - we should actually be encouraging it and make sure that those who are qualified find jobs and contribute."

Romania has also dismissed the UK "invasion" fears, sardonically stating: "There isn't going to be an invasion of Romanians... Not all Romanians, young and old, are going to get on a plane."

Fears that hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans would enter the UK when immigration restrictions were lifted on January 1 have dominated the headlines recently, although to date no such surge has occurred.

The quarantine period that prevented Bulgarians and Romanians from targeting UK jobs, as well as people from eight other EU countries, ended on New Year's Day, seven years after the two countries achieved full EU membership.

But Laszlo Andor, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said there were already three million people from Bulgaria and Romania living in other European Union member states.

"It is unlikely that there will be any major increase following the ending of the final restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers," he said.

Immigration levels on a par with the number of arrivals experienced by the UK in 2004, when Poland joined the EU, also seem unlikely.

The UK has also put in place a new three-month minimum waiting time before these new arrivals are able to claim out-of-work benefits.