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MPs hit out at "scaremongering" over European immigrants and urge Worcestershire to embrace them
MPs in Worcestershire say too much “scaremongering” has been going on in the debate about Romanian and Bulgarian migrants – saying the county has nothing to fear from them.
Visa restrictions on nationals from the two eastern European countries ended on New Year’s Day under EU rules.
The Government has refused to predict how many could come to the UK, lured by the prospects of better paid jobs.
Conservative MPs in the county say there are concerns about the pressure they could put on schools and hospitals, but insist most of them will come to work, not rely on welfare.
Peter Luff, who represents Mid-Worcestershire, said: “The vast majority of Eastern Europeans who have already come here, like the Polish, come to work, not claim benefits.
“The café at Evesham railway station was closed for years and years until it was opened and operated again by a Polish migrant.
“I accept there is pressure on schools and hospitals, and an issue of cultural change in our communities – but we should welcome them.
“Nobody would leave these countries to live in a cold council estate in middle England, so some of this language being used is very concerning.
“We should embrace them in Worcestershire.”
Robin Walker, who represents Worcester said: “There is legitimate concern that large numbers coming to this country will put pressure on public services, but a lot of scaremongering is going on.
“The last Government didn’t think immigration was an issue and it’s right we ought to look at it, but I won’t say all immigration is bad, especially when you look at the number of British people abroad.
"I've said all along we need to renegotiate our deal with Europe and that's something we still need to look at."
Back in 2004, experts predicted only a few thousand Polish people would come to Britain when the borders opened up, but more than 500,000 arrived.
There are estimated to be just over 17,000 EU-born nationals living in Worcestershire, of which 287 are Romanian.
Some 117 students at the University of Worcester are Romanian, and temporary seasonal agricultural work is undertaken by several hundred of them every year in rural parts of the county.
Back in 2010 seven young Romanian children – some as young as nine – were found working on a farm in Kempsey, picking onions in freezing conditions without warm clothing.
West Worcestershire MP Harriett Baldwin said: “In the local economy there are already a lot of Romanian and Bulgarian seasonal agricultural workers and I know local farmers find them hard working and reliable and are keen to keep them on.
“However, we also need to make sure that we reform the benefit system to make work pay for local unemployed people and ensure that people come here to work rather than to claim benefits. That is part of what this Government is doing.”
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