I had a look to the Ukip 2014 Manifesto. As we are in the period of electoral campaign for the European and the local elections, I expected some politicians be tempted to use propagandistic tools in order to create emotions, with the hope to transform emotions in votes. After all, this is not a new recipe and it remembers me the old times when the Communist propaganda was trying to convince us that the Communism was the bright future of the mankind even though the shelves in supermarkets were empty. Nobody believed it and the result was that the number of subversive jokes against the political regime flourished.
What I did not expect is to see revived aggressive scaremongering spread last year about a Romanian "invasion" - which became subject of mockery in the media after 1 January - and Romanians in the UK being again insulted in a country known for its politeness and for being homeland of fair play.
Blaming political opponents and presenting yourself as the saviour of the nation could be part of a political strategy, but it is totally unacceptable in Europe to disseminate, as political message, outrageous lies about a foreign community. It is even more unconceivable in the country which produced the Magna Carta and - for good reasons - is one of the most admired modern democracies. Fortunately, a huge majority of Britons rejects such attitudes, but a campaign based on distorted information and racial slogans risks to manipulate the public opinion in a very toxic way.
In the Ukip Local Manifesto 2014, the party leader mentions that "Today, local communities are under attack... On 1 January 2014, the UK opened its doors to people from both Romania and Bulgaria. Up to 29million more people are, therefore, entitled to come here, to take advantage of our benefits and social houses".
The reality is that just 0.06% of these 29million have come to work in Britain but the bad news is that a total of 400million people from Europe are entitled to come to the UK if they wish so, because all EU citizens have the right to decide where to reside and work within the European Union. According to Mr. Farage, one of these 400 million people is a member of his own family.
On the other hand, it seems that no one in the EU migrates more than Britons do. According to a paper delivered on 23 April at the British Sociological Association's annual conference in Leeds and quoted by The Independent, "Almost 3000 Britons move abroad each week, with around 5million now living outside the UK. Nine out of ten British migrants are of working age. 320,000 people left the UK in 2013. 383,000 Brits live in Spain".
Evidence suggest that Romanians are not in a hurry to come to the UK after the lifting of restrictions on the labour market, even though since the beginning of the year British companies advertised more than 10,000 posts on a Romanian website to plug gaps in the highly skilled jobs market. Nor they abuse the benefits system in Britain. In 2013, out of 60million people living in the UK, 9.5% received benefits, whereas is 1.4% out of 120,000 Romanians. And the only significant connection I know between Romanians in the UK and the social housing is that a Romanian company based in London employs 500 people and builds social houses in England and Wales. Romanians are net contributors to the public purse, not a drain.
Even more damaging to their lives and reputation in Britain is the use of distorted information about crime. The Ukip Manifesto 2014 claims: "An open door to crime: 28,000 Romanians are held for crimes in London". This allegation is untrue and targeting an ethnic community is racism.
Politicians who hope "to produce an earthquake" in the European elections forget to mention that the figure of 27,725 released by the Scotland Yard on the basis of Freedom of Information Act represents "arrested people" and is for a five years period (from 2008 to 2012). "Arrested" is different from "charged" or "convicted". A simple check in traffic becomes an "arrest" in statistics if you are asked to go to the Police station for ID verification. In many cases the same person was "arrested" several times. To compare, only in 2012 more than 5.6million crimes were committed in the UK. If multiplied by five years, one could reach the conclusion that 28million Britons have committed crimes. It is a non-sense, as it is a non-sense to say that 28,000 Romanians are held for crimes in London.
According to data published by the Metropolitan Police, the number of Romanians charged with an offence in London in January 2014 dropped 3%, compared to the same month last year. In many cases Romanians are victim of crimes, with 543 persons in the first three months of 2014. As Don Flynn, director of Migrants Rights Network, told Jessica Elgot from the Huffington Post UK: "the figures contradict the claims made in some sections of the tabloid media that crime figures would rocket. If we take into account an increase in the size of the Bulgarian and Romanian populations in the UK during the course of 2013, then this suggests that crime rates are actually falling rather than growing."
At the national level the figures are even more speaking for themselves: in the first three months of 2014 the number of Romanians convicted in the UK was 1522 compared to 1797 in the same period of 2013 (a reduction of 15%). This is consistent with the trend in 2013 versus 2012, where the reduction was more than 30% (from 9540 to 7304 convictions).
There is no country without crime, but statistically the crime rate in Romania is one of the lowest across the whole of Europe. According to the Metropolitan Police cooperation with Romania is one of the most efficient they have in Europe. For the last six months we have had eight Romanian police officers seconded to the MET as part of the Operation Nexus. They are targeting in partnership any form of criminality with Romanian authors and they are protecting those Romanian nationals who are victim of crimes.
The Ukip nationwide poster campaign claiming that "the UK opened doors to unlimited numbers of people from Romania and Bulgaria" and "an open-door to crime" is, in fact, an open-door to hate. I hope reason will prevail.
Post Scriptum: I read with great interest the article "Ukip immigration policy - the wife test", by the BBC's political editor Nick Robinson. My only comment is that in Romania, if you are a politician or a civil servant, it is against the law to employ your wife as your secretary, if the job is paid with public money.