300,000 immigrants secure backdoor route into Britain


5th October 2006

A group of Moldovans, from Europe's poorest country, who are about to travel to Great Britain to live.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants from Moldova, Europe's poorest country, have secured a backdoor route allowing them to flood into Britain, it has emerged.

More than 300,000 Moldovans have taken advantage of a special arrangement which allows them a Romanian passport.

And, once Romania joins the EU on January 1 next year, the Moldovans will have the exact same rights of free entry to Britain as their neighbours.

Experts had already estimated 600,000 Romanian and Bulgarians may flood into the UK in search of work. The Moldovans could now push that figure closer to one million.

It will heighten fears the UK is set for a repeat of the huge wave of migration which followed the accession of eight other former eastern European countries to the EU in May, 2004 (France, Germany and Italy - frightened of the "Polish plumber" - closed their borders to this wave).

Yesterday, official figures revealed the number of foreign workers in Britain is now 1.5 million, an increase of five per cent on a year ago. The rise is mainly down to the influx of eastern Europeans.

The Office for National Statistics said last year probably saw the biggest ever entry of foreign workers to this country.

The largest number of registrations came from Polish workers, with Lithuanians and Slovakians the next biggest groups.

Fleeing home will be particularly attractive for Moldovans, as they are currently living in the poorest country in Europe.

Four out of five of its 4.5m citizens are living below the poverty line, and unemployment is eight per cent.

Average wages are less than £100 a week. Even without free movement across the EU, a quarter of its working age population has fled to find work abroad.

A large number of prostitutes working in Britain, many as sex slaves against their will, were smuggled in from Moldova, a country plagued by the problem of people trafficking.

Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migrationwatch UK, said: 'This is yet another immigration problem that the government failed to foresee. This rush for Romanian passports shows that a very large number of Moldavians specifically intend to migrate to the EU.

The Home Office, which has promised to carefully 'manage' the latest wave of immigration, is powerless to stop Moldovans exploiting the passport loophole.

The country, formerly part of the USSR, has an agreement with Romania that any citizen with Romanian parents or grandparents is entitled to citizenship.

And, in the last three weeks alone at least 300,000 have applied, with the passport application forms in such demand they are even being sold on the black market.

In Romania the government yesterday responded to the unprecedented requests for passports by announcing a special commission to process the requests.

Lucian Stanica, Romania's vice-consul to Moldova said: 'We received about 300,000 letters from people and some of the envelopes had more than one application in them so the number could actually be somewhat higher.'

The speaker of the Moldovan Parliament, Marian Lupu, said: 'The requests for Romanian citizenship will continue to pour in until the restrictive visa system imposed by the EU on Moldovans changes.'

It is yet another headache for Home Secretary John Reid, charged with rebuilding public trust in the UK's 'open door' immigration system. Ministers predicted only 13,000 people a year would head to Britain from the eight countries which joined the EU in 2004, including Poland, but more than 600,000 have arrived.

As a result, they have promised to impose restrictions on the Bulgarians and Romanians - and, therefore, the Moldovans - by making them seek work permits if they wish to take jobs here. The Home Office insists the migration will be carefully 'managed'.

But Ministers have no power to stop them travelling here, using the right of free movement to which all EU citizens are entitled.

They also have no rights to stop migrants moving here as self-employed workers. Both groups of people could easily drift into the black market, given the Government's poor record on stopping illegal working. Last year, only 23 firms were prosecuted.

Under a law endorsed by Romania in 1991, any Moldovan with Romanian origins could claim the Romanian citizenship. Republic of Moldova, now the poorest country in Europe, was once part of Romania until the end of World War Two when it became part of the Soviet Union and remained there until august 1991.
Any person who was a Romanian citizen until 1944 or who has parents or grandparents who were Romanian citizens can be granted Romanian citizenship.