- LIVE TV
Hundreds of thousands from outside the EU will be eligible to work in Britain from today because of a passport giveaway by Bulgaria and Romania.
It will give some of the poorest in Europe the right to live and work here.
Bulgaria and Romania are offering national status to minority or ethnic groups living in non-EU states including Moldova, Macedonia, Serbia, Ukraine and Turkey.
Officials in Bulgaria have already issued 90,000 passports to Macedonians, while Romania is offering all of Moldova’s four million population the opportunity to obtain Romanian nationality. A further 300,000 in Turkey can apply for Bulgarian passports.
Hungary has granted EU passports to those in neighbouring countries. There are only two conditions – a direct ancestor who was a Hungarian citizen and a basic knowledge of the language.
Some 100,000 from Serbia have applied. Meanwhile Malta has announced plans to sell EU passports to foreigners for 650,000 euros from today.
Thousands of migrants have used Bulgarian or Romanian passports to move to other EU countries since the two states joined seven years ago.
From today they will be able to do the same to get into Britain, as the working restrictions on those with Bulgarian and Romanian passports are being lifted.
Bulgaria has been criticised for its lax procedures for issuing passports and corrupt officials have been accused of fast-tracking applications for less than £200.
It originally set up its passport giveaway to strengthen links with the 2.5million Bulgarian ethnic minorities in neighbouring countries – it has long claimed that Macedonia, formerly part of Yugoslavia, is Bulgarian.
However, many applicants do not speak Bulgarian, do not have Bulgarian heritage, know nothing about the country and are motivated by the prospect of getting into the EU job market.
Romania is offering all of Moldova’s four million population the opportunity to obtain Romanian nationality”.
Romania has issued passports to more than 120,000 Moldovans. Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, was part of Romania until 1940, when it was annexed by the Soviet Union.
When Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in January 2007, temporary curbs were placed on the type of work their nationals could take in the UK.
The curbs have been lifted from today because under treaty rules they cannot be extended any further.
Bulgarians and Romanians will be entitled to claim the same benefits and NHS care as other EU citizens.
Yesterday the Mail revealed how many flights and coaches from Romania and Bulgaria to London this week are fully booked, while some experts have predicted a 50,000-a-year surge in migrants from the two countries.
Last night Bojdar Dimitrov, a former government minister in Bulgaria, said his government had issued tens of thousands of passports to Macedonians and is continuing to do so.
Mr Dimitrov, a Bulgarian nationalist who supports the expansion of his people, said: ‘Bulgarian citizenship is very popular in Macedonia. Almost 90,000 Macedonians have been issued with Bulgarian passports.
‘When I was in the foreign ministry we would issue 500 passports a week. All they would need to prove was that they had Bulgarian heritage.
‘Romania has a more liberal immigration law even than Bulgaria. Everyone who lives in Moldova, which was part of Romania before the end of the Second World War, has the right to receive a Romanian passport within two weeks of applying.’
He said that 20,000 Serbians also have Bulgarian passports but added: ‘It is not the Bulgarians you need to be concerned about in Britain but the Moldovans, Russians and Ukrainians, who will take advantage of the relaxed laws in Romania to claim EU passports to travel to your country.’
Last night MigrationWatch chairman Sir Andrew Green said: ‘The issue of EU passports to people who are not citizens is bound to widen the pool of people who can migrate to Northern Europe. It may even be that they acquired the passports for that very purpose.’
David Cameron was urged earlier this week by 90 senior Tories to re–impose controls on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants or risk social unrest.
They demanded that the Prime Minister use a little-known clause in EU law that allows governments to continue with border controls if their country is ‘undergoing or foresees serious labour market disturbances’.
Labour home affairs spokesman Yvette Cooper said of the lifting of controls: ‘We need a calm, considered debate and practical policies. Sadly, from the Government, we’ve had little of either.
‘They still aren’t addressing the practical problems around those who exploit migrant workers to undercut local businesses and staff.’
– Daily Mail