Posted on November 8, 2007

Immigration: Controls No Barrier to Romanians

Gethin Chamberlain, London Telegraph, November 5, 2007

Irania Tudor looks out from her Bucharest flat, a purchase funded by work in Britain

Agencies in the capital Bucharest have disclosed how measures introduced by the Government to prevent Britain being invaded by workers from Romania, and neighbouring Bulgaria, are failing.

One British employment agent based in Bucharest told The Sunday Telegraph that the Government had no way of controlling migrant workers from the two new EU states, nor any way of knowing how many migrant workers were entering Britain from these countries.

Dominic Ryan, who runs the Premier Global agency and is also a director of the Romanian-British chamber of commerce, said: “Realistically, it is a nonsense. There are no restrictions on me sending anyone anywhere. I don’t see how you can tell who is coming in. My understanding is that the facility does not exist to monitor or implement it.”

The disclosure undermines government claims that only 8,945 people have entered Britain from Romania and Bulgaria since they joined the EU at the start of the year.

According to Romanians who have worked in Britain, many who exercise their right as EU citizens to enter the country simply disappear into the black economy. Others sidestep the regulations by seeking self-employed status or by securing a contract with a British firm.

Daniela Marinescu, who runs the Phoenix recruitment agency from an office in a concrete block near the centre of Bucharest, said the rules simply pushed those who wanted to work in Britain underground. “Most people who want to go to the UK will go there to find jobs on the black market,” she said.

Despite improvements in economic growth, Romania remains one of the poorest countries in Europe.

The average monthly wage among its 22 million inhabitants is only about £170, which goes a long way towards explaining why an estimated two million people have left the country.

Under Home Office rules, only 19,750 migrants from Romania and Bulgaria are allowed to enter Britain to fill a limited number of vacancies, including highly skilled jobs, seasonal agricultural work and the food processing industry.

However, there is plenty of work available to those who want it. Websites for Romanians in Britain advertise a range of vacancies for unskilled workers, along with offers of assistance in circumventing the rules.

One advertiser, who gave his name only as Mariam, said it was easy to beat the system.

“I was illegal myself till the start of this year,” he said. “I used someone else’s name to stay here, and someone else’s papers. But now I am under my real name, I pay taxes, and I am totally legal.

“Things have become so much easier now compared to three years ago when I came here and I had to make tricks to get into the country as a Romanian.

“Everybody is doing that [working illegally], working here without any work permit. I know many girls who do not have any work papers and clean houses. At the end of the day they get their money and pocket it. They work when they want, if they want, and get their money the next moment.”

He said it was simple to register as self-employed to get around the restrictions and told a Sunday Telegraph reporter that he could arrange the necessary paperwork. “Don’t worry, there is no problem, you will get a positive answer from the Home Office in three months, tops,” he added.

“But no one can do anything to you in the meantime, so you can work with no problem.”

Many of those leaving Romania have gone from the desperately poor rural areas—with many choosing to travel to Spain and Italy—but Britain is rising in popularity and is now cited as the third most popular destination for those in search of employment abroad.

Irina Tudor, 26, and her husband Laurentiu, 27, have certainly done well for themselves from working in Britain since Mr Tudor arrived on a one-week visa four years ago.

The flat in central Bucharest that they bought for €60,000 (£41,700) last year is now worth €150,000 (£104,200). Mrs Tudor is back in Romania remodelling it. She plans to return to Britain next year to earn more money to finish the work.

“You need the workers,” she said. “I work for £5 an hour but British won’t accept that.”

The couple, then unmarried, arrived in Britain in November 2003 on tourist visas and headed for Northampton, where they had Romanian friends.

Mrs Tudor freely admitted that their intention was to stay on in the country to work. She found a job as a cleaner while her husband was taken on as a labourer and, when he managed to secure a work permit, they decided to marry to avoid having to rely on extending Mrs Tudor’s tourist visa.

But she said that she knew many other Romanians who had entered the country using false documents from other EU countries, including passports and driving licences, which they then used to obtain national insurance numbers.

“I have so many friends who are workers there with fake documents,” she said.

“Some friends came legally with a visa but the majority came in on fakes.”

Like most Romanians who travel abroad to seek work, the couple were tempted by the money on offer. Mrs Tudor earned the equivalent of about £100 a month in Romania, while in Britain she said she could earn 10 times that amount. Her husband earns £6.43 an hour as a labourer for a company in Bedford. They plan to return to Romania once they have earned enough for the future.