Month: January 2014

Bulgarian and Romanian students in UK find their maintenance stopped

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The Guardian, Friday 31 January 2014 17.07 GMT

Crina Petrariu in Hull

Crina Petrariu, a Romanian in her second year at Hull had her maintenance grant withdrawn and a demand to pay back £3,500. Photograph: Christopher Thomond

When the letter landed on Crina Petrariu’s doormat at the home she shares with her husband and young son in Hull, she assumed there had been a mistake. The short, official note stated that the second-year chemistry student’s financial support had been frozen – and that she now owed the government £3,500.

“It was a shock but I didn’t really think it could be right,” said the 34-year-old Romanian in a break between studying and looking after her six-year-old son, Rares. “I called the student finance people and they said it was a new law and that the government had said to stop all finance to Romanians and Bulgarians.”

Two months later, despite repeated phone calls and sending off a parcel of bank statements to prove she has lived in Britain for more than the three years qualifying her for student maintenance support, Petrariu, a student at Hull University, says she still has not had a penny of her allowance or tuition fee support.

“Every time when you call them, they say they are still checking. ‘We don’t have an answer for you yet.’ But it has been more than three months now. It is getting very hard.”

Petrariu, who has lived in Britain for five years and whose husband has just got a job as a secondary school maths teacher, was one of about 7,500 Romanian and Bulgarian students who had their financial support – fees and maintenance allowance – frozen without warning in November last year.

The government said it suspended the grants and loans after noticing an upsurge in the number of students from the two countries applying for maintenance support. Officials asked them for fresh proof they had been resident in the UK for the qualifying three years.

The move coincided with increasingly hostile rhetoric about theanticipated influx of “beggars and benefits cheats” from the two countries when working restrictions to Britain were lifted on 1 January. And some students fear they have been caught up in the government’s efforts to appear tough on immigration.

Andrei Stan, a student at Sheffield University, is the co-ordinator for the UK branch of the League of Romanian Students Abroad. He said some Romanians had been forced to abandon their studies as the money dried up – and many more were sceptical about the government’s motives.

“The timing of this announcement and the very precise targeting – that only students from these two countries, out of all other EU member states, were initially involved – leads to the suspicion that there may have been a party political motivation for this initiative, with legitimate Romanian and Bulgarian students paying the price.”

David Willets, the universities minister, announced the initial crackdownin a written statement in November. This was subsequently extended to cover other EU students at private colleges who claimed maintenance allowance, but it is only Romanians and Bulgarians at both private and public universities who have been affected.

Ion Jinga, Romania‘s ambassador to the UK, says he has received several letters from students who have been caught up in the clampdown, some of whom have been in Britain for 10 years. One 18-year-old got in touch to say she had received a letter just after Christmas telling her she had to repay £9,000 in 10 days or prove she had been in the country for three years by sending utility bills, council tax or bank statements in her name.

“The problem is that when you are 15 you do not put these things in your name,” said Jinga. “So she sent them an official letter from the UK Border Agency proving she has been a resident in the UK since 2010, as well as diplomas from her UK secondary school and college. But still their answer was negative, and now she does not know what to do.”

Jinga said he was 100% supportive of any legitimate measure to stop fraud, but he was concerned that Romanians and Bulgarians had been targeted, adding that this could lead to discrimination.

“These students appear to have become caught up in this political and media storm around immigration, and they did not want to be caught up in it, and they did not ask to be involved,” he said.

The government has so far failed to give any specific details of the increase in Romanian and Bulgarian students applying for maintenance allowance in England. A spokesperson for the Department of BusinessInnovation and Skills [BIS] said it would be providing a breakdown in the next few weeks, adding that proof of entry requirements had been toughened up for all EU students applying for maintenance allowance. “We identified that there had been a significant increase in the number of Bulgarian and Romanian students applying for full student support in England this year … We have asked each of these students to supply additional information to support their applications for maintenance, before any further public funding is made available to them or to their institutions.”

Andrew McGettigan, an expert in higher education, said the problem had arisen because the Student Loans Company [SLC] has no appropriate process to deal with young Romanians and Bulgarians who have moved to Britain with their professional parents in the past 10 years and who are now heading to university.

“This is a problem of poor information management between different branches of government,” said McGettigan, author of The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the Future of Higher Education. “Officials at BIS and SLC saw the figures claiming maintenance support from Romanian and Bulgarian applicants and did not believe that so many people had been here legitimately for three years. They may have stopped some fraud, but this issue is not confined to Romanian and Bulgarian students, and many of these young people who are here totally legitimately have had their studies jeopardised.”

A spokesperson for the Student Loans Company said that as soon as it received proof from students that they had lived in Britain for three years their funding would be reinstated.

But as the debate about what has happened and why Romanians and Bulgarians have been singled out continues, time is running out for students like Petrariu. “I am worried now because it is getting very difficult. I have a child and we are struggling with money. Our credit cards are empty … Please don’t mess up my life with your political games. Yes, I know the politicians will probably win lots of votes, but it is affecting our lives and that doesn’t feel fair.”

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Ambassador Ion Jinga: 24 January 2014: 155 Years Since the Creation of the Modern Romanian State – Remembering Lord Palmerston

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Dr Ion Jinga

HE Dr Ion Jinga, Ambassador of Romania to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Huffington Post on  24/01/2014

Every year on 24 January Romanians celebrate one of the most important – and probably most affectionate – moments in the history of their country, the Union of the Principalities of Wallachia and Moldova. If Romanians have always been so proud of the Union achieved on 24 January 1859, it is undoubtedly due to the sense of responsibility (or “ownership”, as we would say nowadays) that they assumed in its making, and to the great spirit of solidarity that made it possible 155 years ago.

In 1848 revolutions spread like a conflagration through Europe. In England, Lord Henry John Temple Palmerston, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (he also was twice Prime Minister and Home Secretary), sympathised openly with the revolutionary party abroad. In particular, he was a strong advocate of national self-determination, and stood firmly for constitutional liberties on the Continent.

The Romanian ex-revolutionaries of 1848, exiled after the defeat of the movements they had initiated, became “diplomats of the Union”. They fiercely defended the national aspirations of their people, in the complex geopolitical calculations and diplomatic compromises of the Great Powers.

In May 1853, the Russians threatened to invade the Romanian Principalities of Wallachia and Moldova, both at that time under the Ottoman Empire’s suzerainty (but not part of the empire). Lord Palmerston argued that the Royal Navy should be sent to the Dardanelles strait, in order to assist the Turkish navy. In March 1854 Britain, along with France, declared war on Russia for refusing to withdraw from the principalities.

At the end of the Crimean War with the defeat of Russia, in March 1856 the Paris Congress found a compromise among the seven Great Powers concerning the Danube Principalities (France, Sardinia, Russia and Prussia supported the cause of the Unification; Austria and the Ottoman Empire stood against; Great Britain remained neutral). According to this compromise, the two principalities were allowed to take the name of “The United Principalities of Moldova and Wallachia”, but were to maintain separate rulers, governments and legislative assemblies.
But this solution did not really match the determination of the Romanian Unionists. After the Elective Assembly of Moldova unanimously chose on 5th January 1859 Colonel Alexandru Ioan Cuza, the candidate of the National Party, as Ruling Prince, on January 24th the Elective Assembly of Wallachia voted, again unanimously, for the same person, thus creating de facto the United Romanian Principalities. In January 1862, the first single Government and the first single Parliament of Romania became operational in Bucharest. In his inaugural speech to Parliament, Prince Cuza solemnly declared: “A new day is starting today for Romania, as it is finally entering the path that will lead to the fulfilment of its destiny”.

The Union of 1859 has been the beginning of an extraordinary process of modernisation and reforms; it has paved the way to the Great Union of 1st December 1918 when, based on the principle of people’s right to self-determination proclaimed by the US President Woodrow Wilson, the third Romanian principality, Transylvania, also decided to unite with Romania.
It is not by chance that I made a reference to Lord Palmerston, as he has woven closely together the strands of idealism and realism in foreign policy. He said: “We have no eternal allies and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow”.

And then again: “I hold that the real policy of England is to be the champion of justice and right: pursuing that course with moderation and prudence, not becoming the Don Quixote of the world, but giving her moral sanction and support wherever she thinks justice is, and whenever she thinks that wrong has been done”.

The point of interest in these quotations is that they were spoken by the same man in the same speech without any sense of contradiction. They were the words of Lord Palmerston in the House of Commons on 1st March 1848. And I believe that both quotations could be matched by any British Foreign Secretary between that time and now.

Lord Palmerston is famous for his patriotism. Speaking about him, Lord John Russell (himself Prime Minister twice in the mid-19th century) said: “his heart always beat for the honour of England”. But probably the best epitaph comes from the Marquis of Lorne, who said of Palmerston in 1866: “He loved his country and his country loved him. He lived for her honour, and she will cherish his memory.” I believe this is the supreme recognition. No one could ask for more.

By following the British model of weaving together patriotism, idealism and realism, Romanian Unionists of 1859 and 1918 succeeded. This is one of the reasons why Romanians admire and respect so much the United Kingdom.

Romanian and British people share today the same values and are part of the same European culture and civilization, united in its diversity. The constant support that the United Kingdom has given to Romania on its path towards the European Union and NATO memberships, and the Strategic Partnership that exists between our countries, are solid ground for mutually beneficial bilateral relations.

At the turn of the last century, Rudyard Kipling said about Britons: “We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse”. Today Great Britain has 60 million people and Romania 20 million. Our countries are close friends, allies and partners. Paraphrasing Kipling, I would say that we have 80 million reasons for an ever closer partnership. The presence of a hard working Romanian community in the UK and of an increasing number of Britons in Romania is part of the recipe for a common success.

Post Scriptum: The common success may have many forms. The protection of the national patrimony is one of them. Last November, thanks to the excellent cooperation we have developed with the FCO, the New Scotland Yard and the Home Office, Romania recovered 145 Kosons (gold coins issued by the ancient Kingdom of Dacia, on the current territory of Romania), which represent invaluable artefacts and witness 2000 years of rich and fascinating history.

Ambasadorul Ion Jinga: ROMÂNII DIN MAREA BRITANIE, ÎNTRE PREJUDECĂŢI POST-CRIZĂ ECONOMICĂ ŞI AFIRMAREA PROPRIEI VALORI

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E.S. Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambasador Extraordinar și Plenipotențiar al României în Regatul Unit al Marii Britanii și Irlandei de Nord, in Economistul (NR. 1 (151), 20 – 26 IANUARIE 2014)

Începutul unui Nou An oferă întotdeauna un bun prilej pen­tru o retrospectivă asupra celui precedent. Pentru românii din Marea Britanie, anul 2013 a fost unul complex – cu provocări și împliniri, cu bucurii și frustrări, dar şi cu speranţe de mai bine în 2014.

În cei aproape șase ani de când am privilegiul de a reprezenta Româ­nia ca ambasador în Regatul Unit al Marii Britanii și Irlandei de Nord, am fost martorul multor poveşti de suc­ces, atât în relaţiile bilaterale româ­no-britanice, dar și în cadrul comu­nităţii româneşti din această țară, pe care am văzut-o dezvoltându-se într-o comunitate educată, inteligentă, capabilă să depăşească obstacolele şi să performeze excepțional într-un mediu atât de competitiv cum este cel britanic.

Cooperarea dintre România şi Marea Britanie a primit, la 10 oc­tombrie 2013, prin vocea miniştrilor de Externe român şi britanic, o re­confirmare a nivelului de excelență al Parteneriatului Strategic bilateral, recunoscându-se aportul pozitiv pe care cetăţenii români îl aduc eco­nomiei britanice. Regatul Unit este astăzi unul dintre cei mai importanţi aliaţi, parteneri şi prieteni ai Româ­niei în Europa.

Singurul element ce a umbrit anul trecut această imagine îl consti­tuie campania negativă promovată de o parte a mass-mediei britanice, dar şi de unii politicieni populiști, la adresa comunităţii româneşti. O astfel de retorică poate aduce voturi într-o perioadă încă marcată de consecințele crizei economice, însă preţul este plătit cu reputaţia a zeci de mii de români care muncesc cin­stit în Marea Britanie.

Ca ambasador, am avut şansa să descopăr adevăratele valori ale aces­tei țări: mândrie naţională, o istorie fascinantă, diversitate culturală, înalte standarde morale. Poate că nu întâmplător cuvinte ca „lord” şi „fair play” au fost inventate în Anglia, iar Magna Charta Libertatum nu a fost scrisă într-un alt colţde lume. De aceea, am fost surprins să constat cum atitudinea faţă de România poate fi atât de uşor influenţată de prejudecăţi şi opinii partizane. Cred că opinia publică britanică merită să înţeleagă România dintr-o perspec­tivă diferită, iar acesta a fost unul din obiectivele pe care le-am urmărit constant, împreună cu echipa Amba­sadei României la Londra.

În ultimul an, am asistat la ata­curi nedrepte și dureroase la adresa românilor, orchestrate de o parte din mass-media insulară și de câțiva po­liticieni xenofobi. Cetăţenii români au devenit, nemeritat și fără voia lor, pioni într-o bătălie politică internă şi victime colaterale ale retoricii an­ti-UE. Cei avizați au înțeles că este vorba despre un context complex, determinat de suprapunerea într-un interval de timp relativ scurt a mai multor tematici de interes major pentru opinia publică britanică: criza economică ce a afectat aproape în­tregul continent, dezbaterea privind relația UK-UE, discursul populist, xenofob și antieuropean al Partidului Independenței Marii Britanii (UKIP), campaniile electorale pentru alege­rile locale din 2013 și cele europarla­mentare din 2014, dar şi estimările eronate din 2004 privind numărul cetățenilor din cele opt noi state UE care au venit să muncească în Rega­tul Unit.

S-a creat, astfel, ceea ce eu am numit „furtuna perfectă” (ne amin­tim filmul cu același nume), când toate condițiile sunt întrunite pen­tru ca cineva să fie victimă. Iar vic­timele au devenit cetățenii români și bulgari, pentru că accentuarea discursului anti-imigrație a coin­cis în timp cu anunțarea ridicării restricțiilor pe piața muncii pentru cetățenii români și bulgari. Și ce subiect mai bun de campanie elec­torală poate exista decât invazia a 29 milioane de români și bulgari, într-o țară unde numărul străinilor repre­zintă deja 13% din populaţie?

Dar, indiferent de resorturile și argumentele promotorilor săi, o astfel de campanie denigratoare la adresa unei comunități nu poate avea nicio scuză, cu atât mai puțin cu cât vorbim de comunitatea cu cel mai mare procent de persoane cu studii superioare din toată Marea Britanie, conform unui studiu dat publicității în anul 2011 de către gu­vernul britanic. Preocupări absolut legitime ale populației, cum sunt imigrația, locurile de muncă sau rata criminalității, nu pot fi folosite drept paravan pentru proferarea de insulte, jigniri și acuze colective lansate fără discernământ. Într-o țară cu peste 60 milioane de locuitori, astfel de pro­bleme nu au fost create de procentul de 0,2% români care, în imensa lor majoritate, sunt bine integrați, mun­cesc și plătesc taxe, respectă legile și valorile britanice – care sunt deopo­trivă valori europene și ale poporului român.

Mult aşteptata invazie a româ­nilor nu s-a produs. În primul avion care a aterizat pe aeroportul Luton, la 1 ianuarie 2014, au fost doar doi români în căutare de locuri de mun­că. Cu un umor tipic britanic, au apărut imediat și articole satirice la adresa celor care anunțau valul imi­nent de imigranți. S-a scris că poliția caută prin localitățile din jurul aeroporturilor londoneze 400.000 români și bulgari, despre care presa tabloidă a anunțat că ar fi plecat spre Marea Britanie, dar nu sunt de găsit, iar autoritățile sunt îngrijorate pen­tru soarta lor, existând indicii că cei 400.000 s-ar îndrepta spre locuința liderului UKIP, Nigel Farage; sau că ambasadorii celor două țări au fost convocați în Downing Street pentru a da explicații pentru întârzierea so­sirii românilor și bulgarilor…

Această campanie agresivă nu este reprezentativă pentru poporul britanic – unul dintre cele mai ge­neroase și civilizate popoare pe care istoria le-a cunoscut –, iar conjunc­tura care a permis să ia amploare se va încheia, sper, nu peste mult timp. O parte din consecințele sale vor persista, poate, o vreme, dar cred că depinde de românii din Marea Britanie să le facă să dispară cât mai curând, pentru că respectul celorlalți se câștigă prin demnitate, muncă, inteligență, iar acestea au fost întot­deauna caracteristici definitorii ale românilor.

Companiile britanice au anunțat deja că vor să angajeze aproape 5.000 români și bulgari, iar de la începutul anului Ambasada României a primit solicitări în acest sens de la firme bri­tanice, care au fost îndrumate să-și facă publice ofertele pe site-urile de specialitate și la Job Centre Plus.

Acea parte a presei insulare dez­amagită că predicțiile alarmiste nu s-au confirmat încearcă acum trans­latarea subiectului de dezbatere de la „valul de imigranți”, spre abuzurile comise asupra sistemului de bene­ficii sociale de către cetățenii est-europeni, cu trimitere și la românii care ar urma să vină, atrași de mira­jul acestor beneficii. Este fals. În anul 2013, din cele 5,7 milioane persoane apte de muncă și care au primit aju­toare sociale în Marea Britanie, doar 7% au fost cetățeni străini. Dintre aceștia, 32% provin din Asia și Ori­entul Mijlociu, 31% din Europa, 24% din Africa. Doar 1.740 români se află pe această listă, adică un procent de 0,03%. Este neglijabil. După cum tot neglijabil este și procentul alocațiilor plătite anul trecut de la bugetul bri­tanic pentru copiii aflați în România, ai căror părinți muncesc în Regatul Unit: 324 dintr-un total de 40.171, adică 0,8%.

Observăm că, dacă la nivelul în­tregii populații din Marea Britanie 9,5% au primit ajutoare sociale, în cazul celor circa 120.000 români procentul este de doar 1,45%, adică de șase ori mai mic. Concluzia se impune de la sine: românii sunt con­tributori neți la bugetul Marii Bri­tanii, iar nu persoane care drenează sistemul.

În fine, o privire asupra numere­lor de asigurare socială eliberate anul trecut în Regatul Unit, comparativ cu 2012, arată creșteri de 50% la spa­nioli, 44% la greci, 43% la portughezi, 36% la unguri, 35% la italieni. În cazul românilor, se constată o reducere a numărului de solicitanți cu 22%.

Un sondaj de opinie realizat re­cent de King’s College London arată că informații distorsionate sau false, vehiculate repetitiv în mass-media, pot schimba percepția publică asu­pra realității. Astfel, o treime dintre britanici cred că guvernul lor cheltu­ie mai mult pentru plata ajutoarelor de șomaj decât pentru pensii, dar în realitate bugetul pensiilor este de 15 ori mai mare decât cel pentru șomaj. Frauda la beneficiile sociale este un alt mit: opinia publică crede că la fiecare 100 lire sterline alocate asistenței sociale 24 sunt fraudate, dar cifrele oficiale arată că este vorba doar de 0,7 lire. De asemenea, ju­mătate dintre britanici cred că rata criminalității a crescut în ultimii ani, când, în fapt, aceasta s-a redus.

Românii nu sunt imigranți în Marea Britanie, ci cetățeni ai Uniunii Europene care își exercită dreptul la libera circulație. Nu doar că nu reprezintă un pericol pentru Regatul Unit, dar, conform statisticilor bri­tanice, prezența lor aduce beneficii economiei locale, ei contribuind la Trezorerie cu cca 34% mai mult decât scot în afară. Cred că statutul diasporei românești aici poate fi definit nu prin cuvântul „integrare”, ci prin „participare”, pentru că ro­mânii contribuie economic, social și cultural la viața societății britanice, în comunitățile locale în care tră­iesc. Comunitatea românească este, poate, fragilă, din cauza depărtării de casă, dar și puternică, pentru că a avut curajul de a-și asuma riscul să trăiască într-o țară străină.

În perioada interbelică, România a fost o putere regională ale cărei elite erau educate la Londra, Paris şi Berlin. Fără cei 42 de ani de comu­nism, probabil că România ar fi avut astăzi acelaşi nivel de prosperitate ca Marea Britanie, Franţa sau Ger­mania. Referindu-se la frumusețea și resursele naturale ale României, ASR Prinţul de Wales ne-a descris ţara, în filmul documentar „Wild Carpathia”, în cuvinte de un adevăr frapant: „Aceasta este România. Nu am mai văzut niciodată aşa ceva.”

Dar ceea ce România are mai bun, pe lângă frumuseţile sale na­turale, sunt oamenii ei. Emigrarea a fost, poate, o soluţie în perioada cri­zei economice, însă produsul intern brut al României a avut în trimes­trul al treilea al anului 2013 cea mai mare rată de creştere din Europa. Conform ultimului studiu privind încrederea în economie, publicat de Ernst&Young, România redevine una din destinaţiile principale pentru investiţii regionale. La finele anului trecut, în România erau înregistrate 4.818 societăți comerciale britani­ce, cu un capital social subscris în valoare de 762 milioane euro, iar in­vestiţiile totale britanice în România depășesc 4,6 miliarde euro. Regatul Unit ocupă locul cinci în topul des­tinaţiilor exporturilor româneşti din cadrul UE și primul loc între toți partenerii externi ai României ca volum al balanței pozitive a exportu­rilor noastre.

Date fiind aceste perspective de dezvoltare, nu ne mai permitem să renunţăm la cele mai bune creiere şi la cei mai pricepuţi muncitori ro­mâni.

Un articol publicat în revista The Economist, la 7 august 2012, arată că: „România este țara unde se nasc unele dintre cele mai stră­lucite creiere din lume. Aici rata copiilor supradotați este de două ori mai mare decât media mondia­lă. În luna iulie (2012, n.n.) țara s-a clasat prima în Europa la Olimpiada Internațională de Matematică și pe locul zece la nivel mondial”. Dacă acesta nu este un motiv de optimism, atunci nu știu ce ar putea fi…

Ambassador Ion Jinga: ‘Waiting for Godot’: Or, for Romanians to Come to the UK

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Article in Huffington Post (02/01/2014):

Dr Ion JingaSamuel Beckett, one of the most influential writers of the last century, is best knows as one of the creators of the ‘Theatre of the Absurd’. His most well-known play, Waiting for Godot, offers a tragicomic outlook on human nature. This is an absurdist comedy in two acts in which two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, wait endlessly and in vain for the arrival of someone named Godot. This play was once voted “the most significant English language play of the 20th Century”.

It seems that a new version of Waiting for Godot is being reinvented by part of the British media who are desperately waiting for the arrival of millions of Romanians after 1 January 2014. It was also suggested I go to Heathrow and Luton airports to greet Romanians who will come to the UK. I also received requests for interviews on Christmas Day to comment on the wave of Romanians who will flood Britain. But even though my English friends believe that after six years here I have acquired a British sense of humour, I have to admit that it has some limits and therefore I declined all these invitations.

On the flight into Luton airport on the 1 January (at Heathrow, the flight expected from Bucharest was cancelled as there were no passengers), only two Romanians came to the UK to take advantage of the lifting of border restrictions, and both having firm job offers – one washing cars, the other as a doctor in Essex. The overwhelming majority of the passengers were Romanians returning to jobs after having enjoyed Christmas with their families at home, or Britons coming home after skiing in the Carpathians.

I must confess that my wife and I are guilty of bringing Romanians to the UK for Christmas and New Year celebrations: our daughter came from Brussels and a family of friends from Romania. As all these three persons will be leaving Britain in the next few days, I therefore hope they will not be counted to the millions of Romanians expected to invade the island.

On 31 December 2013, Migration Watch released a briefing paper stating that “Romanian and Bulgarian migrants in Spain and Italy may choose to move to the North of Europe where employment opportunities are considerably greater as are financial rewards. In light of this analysis we stand by our central estimate that 50,000 people from Romania and Bulgaria will move to the UK each year for five years”. The argument is a simplistic arithmetic: the economic gains in moving to the UK and Ireland are double to those of moving to Spain and Italy.

On 16 January 2013, Migration Watch estimated up to 70,000 people to come every year to the UK from both countries, and at that time Romanians and Bulgarians living in Spain and Italy were not included. The arithmetic was, once again, simple: by extrapolating the number of Poles who came to the UK (one million out of 38million people in Poland), Migration Watch guessed the number of Romanians and Bulgarians (from a combined population of 29million inhabitants) who will choose Britain . With all due respect, I think the weak point in both studies is that arithmetic very much differs from sociology.

Central and Eastern European countries which joined the EU on 1 April 2004 got immediate access to the labour market but only in the UK, Ireland and Sweden. In the case of Romania and Bulgaria, restrictions were lifted seven years after their EU membership and simultaneously by 15 EU member states (the other 10 having done so before). Since 1 January 2007, Romanian citizens have been free to exercise their right to free movement, therefore in the last seven years most of those wanting to work abroad already took advantage of this possibility.

All evidence suggests that Britain is not a preferred destination for Romanian migration. Indeed, the majority of Romanians who have decided to work abroad have chosen countries with closer linguistic and cultural links, like Spain, Italy or France, and currently there is no evidence that they would intend to move to the UK. If there are people who would come from Spain, it is more likely to be Spaniards because, according to British statistics, in 2013 the number of national insurance numbers (NINOs) released to Romanians decreased by 22%, whereas the number of NINOs released to Spaniards increased by 50%.

Taking into account the near-exhaustion of Romania’s potential to “export” workers and the fact that my country is now the fastest-growing economy in the EU, lifting restrictions on 1 January 2014 is unlikely to lead to a massive increase in the number of Romanians coming to the UK.

A report published last November by the University of Reading revealed that “Relative income levels (GDP per capita) are not found to be a significant determinant of A2 migration distribution. Similarities between the EU15 countries, compared to conditions in Bulgaria and Romania, make the each of these a desirable destination.”

Similarly, on 23 December the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) concluded that: “Romanians and Bulgarians will not flood UK in 2014 and it is likely that patterns of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria will be different to those seen after the A8 countries joined the EU in 2004”. So, no mass stampede, this time.

Nevertheless, part of the British media continues to run alarmist reports about the imminent influx from these countries. What is it about this group of people that makes them so “dangerous” to the UK – a country which welcomed more than a hundred of foreign nationalities, spread up its civilization all over the world and is rightly admired for its sense of justice and fair play? I have lived for six years in the UK, enough to discover Britain’s true values: national pride, an incredible rich history, cultural diversity and high moral standards. Therefore, it comes as a great surprise to see how attitudes towards Romania have become so easily formed by misguided and biased opinions.

An answer is offered by Paul Quinn, a British columnist for the Guardian:

Populist politicians’ attempts to fan the flames of hatred rely on our hardwired suspicion of outsiders. This predisposition towards suspicion of immigrants means that reports that portray them negatively find fertile ground. I have found the reaction in the British press to be both fascinating and terrifying. Stigmatising attacks are even more effective in times of material shortage, perhaps explaining why the reaction to increased Romanian and Bulgarian immigration appears to be so much more visceral than it was for other East Europeans who migrated in 2004. History is replete with examples of those fanning the flames of hatred, exploiting the dark side of our human nature for their own benefit. Let us hope these lessons remain with us after 1 January.

On a more optimistic note, a poll commissioned by the think tank British Future and published on 28 December shows “72% of Britons aged 35-44 welcome Romanians and Bulgarians coming to work and play by the rules in the UK”. Most of Romanians who came to the UK did so for work, not for benefits. We also plead in favour of honest, hard-working people, who pay taxes and contribute to society.

British companies are currently advertising 5,000 posts for Romanians to plug gaps in the highly skilled jobs market (after all, the Romanian community in the UK has the highest proportion of highly-educated people of all foreigners in this country) and in areas ranging from doctors and nurses, to care home workers, taxi drivers and hotel staff. But with all this insulting media campaign against Romanians, the UK employers, too, will probably wait for Godot.