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Ambassador Ion Jinga: Romanians in the UK and the Manipulation of Statistics

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Article from Huffington Post, 16/12/2013 09:37:

Dr Ion JingaAs the moment of lifting restrictions on the labour market approaches, it seems that, for a part of the British media, Romanians are the perfect scapegoat to be held responsible for almost everything that goes wrong in the UK. A recent article published by Daily Mailclaiming that “Romanians arrested at seven times rate of Britons” is just another unfortunate example.

The article contains outrageous distortions of reality which tries to manipulate the British public opinion. Following its publication, the Embassy of Romania received apologies from the Metropolitan Police for the way the presentation they made at the City Hall on fighting crime in London, was distorted in the article.

The Daily Mail claims that “For every 1000 Romanians in London, 183 are arrested”. As the number of Romanians arrested is 800, it is supposed that the total Romanian community in London is around 4,300 persons… In fact, there are more than 60,000 people.

So, in reality, for every 1,000 Romanians in London, only 13 were arrested, which – according to the figures presented by Daily Mail (“26 Britons per 1000 are arrested in London”) – is half of the arrest rate for Britons.

Needless to say that “arrested” is different from “convicted” or “charged” and in many cases the same person has been arrested several times. A simple ID check could become an “arrest” if the person is invited to the police station and registered in the database.

During the presentation the New Scotland Yard has done to the City Hall, three examples of foreign nationals arrested were given. None of them was of Romanian nationality, but pictures joining the article in the Daily Mail show Roma/gypsy people, allegedly presented as “Homeless Romanians” – this is more that manipulation, this is racism! Some of the rough sleepers and beggars in central London are Romanian gypsies, but they represent only a tiny minority of all those people sleeping rough or begging in the area.

The article also suggests that many of those people are linked to cash point fraud, but there is no evidence at all that beggars are involved in counterfeiting cards or stealing from cash machines. According to a recent statement of the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit in London: “The latest annual figures show that, in 2012, the top five countries for fraudulent activity on UK issued cards were USA, France, Luxembourg, Italy and Ireland”. Romanians are not mentioned on this top list. In fact, in their overwhelming majority, Romanians in the UK are well integrated, work hard, they respect the law and are respected by the local communities they are living in.

As mentioned in the presentation made by the Metropolitan Police, I have recently met representatives of the operation Nexus. The British officers reassured me that the proportion of crimes committed in London by Romanian nationals is similar to their proportion in London’s population. This confirms what the home secretary has recently made clear, that the level of crime by foreign national in the capital is line with their representation in the population. Romanians make no exception. Just a couple of days ago, hundreds of police officers from the MET, together with Romanian and Polish colleagues, organized a raid in Soho in crackdown on organized crime. They have operated 30 arrests, but no Romanian was arrested. As crime statistics show, in the last quarter the number of crimes committed by Romanian citizens in the UK has decreased by 20%. This is also due to the excellent cooperation we have developed between Romanian and British police forces.

Last September, the business secretary Vince Cable remarked that “Britain is developing an absolutely toxic public opinion on immigration”. If this is the case, I believe that by distorting figures and evidence related to the presence of foreigners in the UK, part of the British media has a huge responsibility in this.

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ES Dr Ion Jinga – despre cadrul legal al prezentei romanesti in Regatul Unit dupa 1 ianuarie 2014

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ES Dr Ion Jinga, Ambasadorul Romaniei in Regatul Unit al Marii Britanii si Irlandei de Nord discutand despre cadrul legal al prezentei romanesti in Regatul Unit dupa 1 ianuarie 2014. Inregistrare a Radio Romania International (9.12. 2013)

Ion Jinga, la Secvenţial: Comunitatea românească din Marea Britanie se mobilizează

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Antena3.ro, 08 DEC 2013:

See video here

Comunitatea românească din Marea Britanie se mobilizează, iar vocea ei este din ce în ce mai auzită, a declarat ambasadorul României în Marea Britanie, Ion Jinga, într-o intervenţie telefonică în ediţia de duminică a emisiunii “Secvenţial”, de la Antena 3.

Ambasadorul român a arătat că, referitor la subiectul imigranţilor români şi bulgari în Marea Britanie, trebuie făcută o distincţie clară între mesajul oficial al Guvernului de la Londra şi anumite discursuri politice “destinate consumului intern”, ori “ceea ce face presa tabloidă”.

Ion Jinga a mai afirmat că subiectul privind falsa invazie a românilor şi bulgarilor va rămâne în atenţia britanicilor până la alegerile pentru Parlamentul European, şi asta din cauza potenţialului său electoral.

Ambassador Ion Jinga on the victimisation of Romanians in the UK

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Ambassador Ion Jinga discussing the issue of victimisation of Romanians in the United Kingdom — Video recording from Sky News.

Ambassador Ion Jinga on the free movement of people in the European Union

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Recording of BBC World Service from the 27/11/2013 where Ambassador Ion Jinga discusses the issue of the free movement of people in the European Union

Celebrating Romania’s National Day

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Article in Huffington Post, 24/11/2013:

Dr Ion JingaIn the history of each nation there are special moments that celebrate the triumph of its achievements. 1 December 1918 is such a moment for Romanians. Ninety five years ago, by the votes of the overwhelming majority of people in Transylvania, this Romanian province was united with its motherland. By similar votes earlier that year, The National Assemblies of Bessarabia and Bukovina also had decided on the union with Romania.

Romanians’ dream to live together in a unitary state was a national project for centuries. Back in the history, the first union of the three medieval Romanian principalities – Walachia, Moldova and Transylvania – was achieved in 1600 under the rule of Prince Michael the Brave. Even though the union was broken after his assassination, it remained a symbol for the generations to follow. Then, on 24th January 1859 Walachia and Moldova merged into a single country, which in 1866 took the name “Romania”.

In ancient times, Romania’s territory was inhabited by the Dacians, described by Herodotus as “the bravest and most honest of the Tracians”. The Kingdom of Dacia was conquered by the Roman Emperor Trajan at the end of one of the bloodiest wars of the Antiquity. Last week, we celebrated together with Victoria and Albert Museum 1900 years since Trajan’s Column, commemorating the Dacian Wars, was built in Rome. A marvel of its time, the Column is also the beginning of the history of a nation, carved in stone. From the battles depicted on the Column a nation was forged and a language was born, the only Latin language in Central and Eastern Europe.

An impressive real life replica of Trajan’s Column is hosted by V&A. Since then, Romanians have remained without interruption within the same geographical space. Our name, as a Country and a Nation, comes from Rome – the capital city, and Romans – the citizens of the Roman Empire.

Dacian soldiers enrolled in the Roman legions have built the Antonine and Hadrian Walls. There are archaeological findings proving their presence in Britain for more than 300 years. Nowadays, Romanians continue to be skilled constructors in Britain, since almost 40% of the work force that last year built the Olympic Village in London was Romanian.

More recently, Romania and the UK were closely linked through their Royal families, Queen Maria of Romania being British by birth and grand daughter of Queen Victoria. These ties remained strong albeit Romania became a Republic, and last year, when The Queen celebrated the Diamond Jubilee, King Michael of Romania was seated next to Her Majesty, as a sign of respect and in recognition of the excellent bilateral relations between the United Kingdom and Romania.

Indeed, Romania and Great Britain have an outstanding cooperation and on 10 October the Romanian and British Foreign Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the bilateral Strategic Partnership, while acknowledging the positive contribution that most Romanians in the UK make to the British economy. The only shadow in this picture is the culture of blame spread by part of the British media and a few politicians. Populist rhetoric may win votes today, but the price is paid with the lives and reputation of thousands of hard working Romanians. Among them, almost 6000 Romanian students, many enrolled to the best British universities. Bill Rammell, Vice Chancellor at the University of Bedfordshire and former Minister of State for Further and Higher Education, said “Students from Romania perform exceptionally well”.

I have lived for many years abroad, enough to see that people usually first learn about Romania in what they read in newspapers or see on TV, which is generally limited and recently marked by scaremongering about migration.

As Ambassador, I had the opportunity 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. I think the British public deserves to understand my country from a different perspective.

Between the Two WW, Romania was a regional power with a ruling elite educated in London, Paris and Berlin. Had my country not experienced 42 years of Communism, today Romania would have been at the same level of prosperity as the United Kingdom, France or Germany. Interviewed in the Wild Carpathia documentary film, HRH The Prince of Wales, a longstanding supporter for the conservation and promotion of Romania’s fantastic natural and cultural heritage, has described this land in most inspired words: “This is Romania. I have never seen anything like this”.

What Romania has its best, apart of its natural beauty, are its people. Migration may have seemed a solution during a time of economic crisis but now Romania’s GDP growth rate is the highest in Europe. According to the latest confidence barometer compiled by Ernst & Young, Romania re-emerges as a significant target for regional investments. More than 4,800 British companies are registered there, with a total investment of over 4.6 billion EUR and the UK takes the fifth place as Romanian exports destination within the EU. Therefore, we can no longer afford to lose our best brains and our skilled workers.

It is not surprising to speak in London, a capital city of civilization and economic liberalism, about the National Day of Romania, because more than 100,000 Romanians live and work in the UK. While respecting Britain, they remain Romanians in spirit, proud of their origins and confident in their future.

Romanian students in York: the flood of skilful immigration

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Chloe Farand, an editor with The Yorker and a ‘Treasured Friend’ of the York Romanian Society, wrote the following article on the 22nd of November, 2013:

In the light of the recent attacks of the right-wing populist press against Romanian immigration and the outspoken claim of a threat of“Thousands of Romanians and Bulgarians planning to flood the UK in 2014”, Romanian students in York and across the country have spoken out against this offensive upsurge of xenophobia.

It’s early on a Sunday morning, under the dim lights of the still unawakened Courtyard, that I meet Arina, Mihai, Ioan and Andrei, members of the Romanian Society in York and founders of the forum of Romanian Societies in the UK in April 2012.

While my eyes are still tired from too little sleep, the group of under-and-postgraduate students, finishing their take away coffee, are already very much alert. The atmosphere is relaxed but there is no doubt that we are about to embark on some serious discussion. I straighten up and open my eyes and ears.

The reason for our meeting is the publication on November 4th of a national press release, co-signed by the Association of Romanian Student Societies and the League of Romanian Student Abroad. The latter manifesto denounces the “pseudo-alarmists accounts” of Romanian immigration which, exacerbated by the current political climate, crystallised increasing hostility towards the Romanian community.

Indeed, despite Romania and Bulgaria having joined the European Union in 2007, both countries are still subject to workers restriction when immigrating to the UK. These restrictions were part of the deal made between the new member-countries and the EU as initial temporary restrictions on numbers allowed to come to the UK and an incentive for Romania and Bulgaria to improve wages and working conditions.

It suddenly seemed as if the greatest threat to 21st century Britain was an invasion of criminals and lazy, uneducated individuals eager to get their hands on all available benefits.

These restrictions could be prolonged by the hosting countries if they assumed that Romania and Bulgaria hadn’t met their target. France and the UK have used the maximum seven years extension of the legislation, therefore they are now legally compelled to abolish these restrictions by January 1st 2014.

The news, inflamed by conservative backbenchers and Ukip opportunists, has unleashed a violent mediatic debate about immigration and has put increasing pressure on the government to act in favour of tighter immigration regulation.

It suddenly seemed as if the greatest threat to 21st century Britain was an invasion from the East of criminals and lazy, uneducated individuals eager to get hands on all available benefits, spoil the schools with dirty and aggressive children and seize all the jobs from the native population until it gets down on its knees, begging.

Today’s Daily Mail front page “Enough is Enough” calls on Mr. Cameron to go against Brussels’ regulation and maintain the workers restrictions for Romanians and Bulgarians immigrants despite the threat of a fine. Such a political stand, unsurprisingly advocated by the latter paper, would have dire consequences on Britain’s future in the European Union.

According to Romanian student representative organisations, the Romanian student body in the UK “is immensely more representative of the features of the Romanian community in Britain” than any of the accounts found in the populist press. As such, the students have taken it upon themselves to speak out in the name of the whole of the Romanian community in the UK.

Mihai Cocoru, former chair of the Romanian society in York and vice-chair for national activity, has fought on both the York and national scene in order to ensure the integration of the Romanian community. He says:

The problem with the press in the UK is that they have been using the Ukip message in order to create sensation and increase their readership. But altogether they have presented very few convincing arguments. The alleged behaviour of Romanian immigrants is one that we do not tolerate.

Indeed, since the creation of the Romanian society in February 2011, dedicated groups of Romanian students have brought their support to the Romanian community established in York. They help and give advice to around fifty families in York with things such as enrolling at the Jobcentre, opening a bank account and obtaining a national insurance number. The credo of the Romanian society is however clear: there is a zero tolerance policy regarding the practice of any illegal activities.

Arina, who finished her Masters in York in June and is currently working as a Marketing Executive in the city, says that the majority of the Romanian community in York is middle class, educated and has a good command of English – which by Romanian standards is likely to mean absolutely fluent. Amongst them are a couple of doctors, the director of a clinic and the head of a local company.

The group of students seems to agree that all the Romanian families in York appear to have integrated perfectly well and that they themselves have never encountered any prejudices here because of their nationality.

Mihai confirms that York is a good example of the immigration of a group of people

with a set of skills who were willing to get the best out of their skills and therefore decided to come to Britain. But the reason for their coming is not because they thought there was milk and honey in the tap, which is what the press is successfully trying to convey.

Mihai is talking quickly in a perfectly mastered English: his tone is sharp and his determination is apparent through the weight he gives to each word.

He adds confidently:

I am a European, highly skilled individual and I can go wherever is best.

Yet, there is no doubt that “wherever is best” is tied to the prospect of a better pay: whilst social workers in the UK get a minimum of £12 an hour, in Romania they receive no more than £2. [http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/10/flood-romanian-migrants-not-going-to-happen]

I am a European, highly skilled individual and I can go wherever is best.

Skills. The word is repeated over and over again, resonating like a chant in their mouths. Rarely have I witnessed that much determination from students at York: ambition does not even come close to describing what is driving the group of students.

Andrei, the society’s secretary and currently a second year computer science student, asserts that about 60 to 70 per cent of what he is studying this year he has already learnt in his school back in Romania. To the question what was his reason for coming to study in the UK, Andrei replied:

I want to study and learn as much as possible in my niche and then go back home and change something. I would like to start my own company and make a difference in Romania.

Ioan Polenciuc, chair of the Romanian society and doing his Phd in Physics adds that

Britain is benefiting from Romania’s brain drain. We would recommend that students go back to Romania.

Today, the UK is the host of no more than 200,000 Romanians; about 6,000 are students who usually make the top of their institution. According to the National Press Release of November the 4th, the UK Migration Advisory Committee has noted that the Romanian community in the UK is not only one of the youngest communities, but also has one of the lowest unemployment rates, close to 4.4%.

However, the latter figures are not the ones picked up by the press. On the contrary, a 26% rise of Romanian workers between April and June of this year, amounting the number of Romanians in the national workforce to 0.3%, has clearly aroused passions.

As British unemployment remains one of the country’s greatest concerns, headlines such as “How do I claim benefits when I get to Britain” and“Romanians rush for ‘Come to UK’ jobs” continue to flourish.

Yet, there will be no Romanian invasion in the coming year, as Mihai puts it:

Romanians who wanted to come to the UK already did despite the restrictions.

This is just another example to fit the uneasy debate on immigration. Yet again, it seems that the anger and fear which have invaded the public sphere are, above all, reflecting the country’s own anxieties about its job market, its social welfare system and its place in the European Union.

Aggressive press articles on Romanian immigration unfortunately still have a long life ahead, and yet, like Mihai, Arina, Ioan and Andrei leave the Courtyard, I cannot but believe that the Romanian case has got plenty of hope.

Read article in The Yorker here.