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UK work restrictions continue for Bulgarians and Romanians

From 2009 the number admitted under the agricultural scheme will increase from 16,250 places to 21,250.

18 December 2008. Bulgarians and Romanians will not get free access to the British labour market, the Government announced today.

The decision, which was taken following advice from the independent Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), is meant to ‘ensure that the interests of British workers are protected and that those migrant workers who can come here to work are the people Britain need, and no more’ – it is said in a press release by Home Office.

Access to British jobs for Bulgarians and Romanians has been restricted since they joined the European Union in January 2007. This meant that the skilled and highly skilled workers have been able to come here to work but access to low-skilled jobs has been restricted to the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS) and the Sector Based Scheme (SBS) for food processing.

Today’s decision to keep restrictions in place means that the UK can continue to benefit from the positive economic contribution Bulgarian and Romanian workers make, but the Government can monitor the impacts of their accession on the labour market and the country as a whole.

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:
"It is essential that only those we need can come here to work and that is why we have decided to continue restricting the work that Bulgarian and Romanians can do here.

"This is a prudent decision that will ensure the UK continues to benefit from the positive economic contribution Bulgarian and Romanian workers make, while protecting British workers and making sure the numbers coming here are managed in the national interest.

"We have already suspended tier three of the points based system to stop low skilled migrants from outside the European Economic Area entering the UK."

As part of today’s announcement the Home Office increased the quota for the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme, following advice from the MAC which identified shortages in the agricultural industry. The scheme enables A2 workers to fill gaps in farming and related work.

From 2009 the number of Bulgarians and Romanians admitted under the scheme will increase from 16,250 places to 21,250. This will ensure that where migrants are needed to fill gaps in the industry, businesses are able to recruit them. The quota for the Sector Based Scheme for food processing – which is restricted to Romanian and Bulgarian workers – will remain at 3,500.

National Farmers’ Union horticulture board chairman Richard Hirst said:
"We welcome the announcement by the Home Office that there will be an increase in the number of SAWS permits. The decision reflects the compelling evidence put by the industry that there is insufficient seasonal labour to pick and harvest crops."

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