Politicians welcome new migrants as UK scare stories falter

Following media-fuelled panic about Romanians and Bulgarians achieving full rights to live and work across the EU, including the UK, a range of politicians from different parties have offered those who are arriving a warm welcome.

Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green Party of England and Wales, said: "As flights and buses arriving today showed, many Romanians and Bulgarians have been living in Britain for years.

"But we should also be welcoming new arrivals, just as Britons arriving in France, Spain and other European states find themselves welcomed.

"It's time to end the toxic immigration debate and acknowledge that whether they are nurses and doctors coming to work in the NHS, computer game designers or building workers, Romanians and Bulgarians, as with other immigrants, will be contributing to our society.

“Some will settle, some will only be here for a few years, and they reflect the mobile nature of life in the modern world which enriches all of our lives.”

Welsh Anglican priest and writer (Offeriad Anglican ac awdur) John Gillibrand, who is a member of Plaid Cymru and who recently sought to be a candidate for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, strengthened the anti-xenophobia message.

He said on social media: "For Romanians and Bulgarians we have an important Welsh word, don't we? Croeso, welcome."

Former Labour spin-doctor Alastair Campbell, who is rumoured to be making a political comeback, tweeted: "From what I have seen of the news today the telly headlines should be 'papers told loads of lies re Romanians and Bulgarians shock'."

"Welcome to Romanians and Bulgarians who are no longer second class European citizens," declared Toni Giugliano, an Italian-born Scot who is a 2014 Scottish National Party (SNP) Euro candidate and leading light in the 'Yes Scotland' campaign.

Maggie Chapman, co-leader of the Scottish Green Party, who is also the party's lead candidate in this year's European elections tweeted her welcome to Romanians and Bulgarians while watching the New Year fireworks from Calton Hill in the capital, Edinburgh

“Happy new year, one and all. And welcome Romanians and Bulgarians to the UK!" she said.

Some leading Liberal Democrats have criticised their Conservative coalition government colleagues on attempts to defy European law by imposing sanctions on incomers.

Meanwhile, Tory grassroots activists have written an open letter to David Cameron arguing for even more drastic restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians.

Labour has remained largely silent on the issue on the first day of the year, though Romanians landing at Luton Airport were greeted by Home Affairs Select Committee chair Keith Vaz, a Labour MP, on the first day of new rules allowing the migrants to work in the UK.

Mr Vaz said that he saw no evidence of people who have "rushed out and bought tickets" because of the lifting of previous restrictions.

The far-right UK Independence Party (UKIP) and BNP (British National Party) have been seeking to capitalise on the fear of migrants spread by tabloid newspapers and other sections of the media, as expected.

A good deal of the scaremongering has been about immigrants supposedly living off the state. But data from the European Commission and the ONS demonstrates that for every unemployed EU migrant there are nine working and paying taxes.

Detailed research published in November 2013 by the Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM) at University College London also indicates a substantial overall fiscal benefit from EU migration to the UK, and describes fears of 'benefit tourism' as "disconnected from reality".

More than two-thirds of Britons say that Romanians and Bulgarians who "work hard and pay taxes, speak English and fit in to the community" should be welcomed to Britain, according to an Ipsos-Mori poll for British Future, reported in The Observer newspaper, though plenty of misunderstanding and suspicion remains.

The anticipated 'swamping' of the UK by Romanians and Bulgarians, advertised in newspapers such as the Mail, Sun and Express, significantly failed to materialise as the work restrictions were lifted on 1 January 2014, with more reporters than incomers sighted at one airport.

The huge surge in anti-immigration stories in recent weeks has forced the Society of Editors to issue a statement claiming that the reporting has not been racist or xenophobic; a view which one migrants' rights advocate described as "unconvincing" to Ekklesia.

But not all in the media have been caught up by fear and panic. The free Metro newspaper ran a story on the backlash against scaremongering on Twitter today, entitled 'Romanians and Bulgarians completely fail to flood to the UK'.

By Ekklesia staff writers

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