Migrants help says Welsh church leader as UK weighs Bulgaria, Romania influx

(Photo: . REUTERS / Luke MacGregor)The leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), Nigel Farage, arrives to speak at the party's annual conference in central London September 20, 2013. The leader of the anti-EU party that poses one of the biggest threats to British Prime Minister David Cameron's hopes of a second term said on Friday that he will unleash a political earthquake with a victory in next year's European election. Farage said its surging popularity will overturn decades of dominance by Britain's main three parties, the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.

A church leader says people in Wales have nothing to fear from migrants arriving from Bulgaria and Romania due to the easing a rules of entry in the European Union for them.

The Rev. Aled Edwards the chief executive of Cytun, Churches Together in Wales, said Wales would suffer without migrants who make a valuable contribution to the country.

He sent out his message at the turn of the year as regulations about the entry of people from a number of European countries into the EU eased on January 1.

But church and civic society leaders complained that political leaders from major parties in the whole United Kingdom had been drumming up anti-migrant fervor.

This rose after they took a hammering in local election in 2013 from the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) which wants Britain to lessen ties with the EU which is now made up of 28 States.

Polish communities in Wales have grown to account for the largest number of non-UK nationals in Wales in the 10 years, WalesOnline reported.

But the prospect of migrants arriving from Bulgaria and Romania, the latest two countries to get full EU labor movement rights have triggered debate in Wales and in the rest of the United Kingdom.


But the fears raised about the impact of widespread migration from Romania and Bulgaria was in constant media view in the latter half of 2013.

Rev. Edwards, ordained in the (Anglican) Church of Wales, has worked extensively with asylum seekers and refugees in Wales and he said migrants had made a positive contribution to Wales through the economy, academia and health services.

Edwards criticised the politicisation of the issue.

"Over the years, migration has been good for both Wales and the UK," he said. "There will, of course, be some issues around the Bulgarian and Romanian migration - but none of them are insurmountable.

"The real difficulty here is that the issue has become disproportionately political. That causes problems, particularly for migrants who come to this country with a view to work and make a contribution."

Edwards asserts that migrants have a positive, not negative impact on Wales.

"I dread to think of a Wales without migrants and a number of areas would suffer.

"Academia is one such example, where there are a lot of students from other countries coming to Wales. Medicine is another....And, of course, the economy also benefits."

On January 1 temporary immigration controls, which had limited the number of Romanians and Bulgarians entering the British labor market from 2007, ended.

The lifting of controls has become a major focus of EU migration debate.

Opponents of immigration, who have been growing in the main governing party, the Conservatives, have been claiming newcomers will tap into what they believe is a generous benefits system in the United Kingdom.

But those who have seen the benefits of migrations noted that the same concerns were raised in 2004, when the introduction of eight new eastern European countries to the EU paved the way for a significant increase in Polish migration.


Known as the "EU8", people from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia were granted instant and unrestricted immigration, resulting in an estimated 1.5 million workers travelling to the UK.

Statistics released by the UK Office for National Statistics released earlier this year revealed Polish people make up the largest migrant group in Wales, with 19,000 living across the country, which has a total population of just more than three million people.

This is followed by 8,000 people from the Republic of Ireland, 6,000 from India, 5,000 from Pakistan and 3,000 from Portugal.

New figures released by the statistics office, however, showed that net migration from the "EU8" decreased by almost two-thirds since 2007.

A group called Migration Watch UK has been publicising fears that even larger numbers could come from Romania and Bulgaria because workers could can earn five times more in the UK than at home.

It has said between 50,000 and 50,000 Romanians and Bulgarians will come each year for the first five years.

Rev. Edwards said, "This xenophobia has to stop because the reality is, Wales has benefited hugely from migrant workers."

The Economist magazine on January 4 quoted Petar Dobrev a concierge from Bulgaria who plans to move to Britain or another EU country in 2014 as saying, "When British people come - in thousands - to our Black Sea, to our resorts, and behave like cave men, drink and fight, we don't say anything.

"We are going to be much better behaved when we go to Britain. We are not going for fun, we are going for work, for a decent living."

The magazine editorialized, "But, by and large, the arrival of Romanians and Bulgarians will work as well (or as badly, depending on your point of view) as previous openings to new EU members from the east."

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