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UK Confirms Clampdown on Bulgarian, Romanian Migrants

Date: 25.10.2006

The British government approved measures to curb immigration to the UK from Romania and Bulgaria after the two countries join the European Union in January.

The limiting measures will be in force during a "transitional period", John Reid, UK home secretary, announced.

The controls will be reviewed annually.

In a written statement to the House of Commons, Reid said that while a limited number of unskilled workers will be taken on to carry out jobs like fruit-picking, the UK will not continue to operate an "open-door" policy regarding work.

He said that food processing and agriculture will be the only sectors initially opened to "less skilled" nationals from Bulgaria and Romania.

Instead, citizens from the two countries will be granted a permit to work in the UK based on their skills in relation to a point scoring system.

The statement makes clear that the UK is not allowed to place any restrictions on Romanians or Bulgarians who want to be self-employed within the UK.

A points system is due to be introduced in the UK from next year for migrants seeking work permits from countries outside the EU. A worker with more skills will be given more points and is more likely to be granted a permit.

Legally, Britain will be powerless to prevent them travelling here but denying immigrants work permits would act as a powerful deterrent.

The UK was one of only three EU member states not to impose employment restrictions during the previous wave of accession in 2004 and the influx of migrants - put officially at more than 300,000 - exceeded by fat the 13,000 that had been estimated.

The government's decision not to replicate its earlier approach coincides with increasing ministerial concern about a potential political backlash over the levels of immigration into the country, the Financial Times commented earlier in the week.

Sofia has insisted that Romanians and Bulgarians will be more drawn to Italy and Spain, where they have large expat communities, rather than the United Kingdom. British critics of Reid's policy, in thier turn, added immigration has helped drive Britain's economic growth since 2004.

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