Romanian and Bulgarian immigration debate kicks off again

20 Mar 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

Eric Pickles, the communities secretary, has kicked off the debate about how many immigrants are likely to move to the UK from Romania and Bulgaria when restrictions are lifted at the end of the year.

The government has been careful about offering estimates or guesses on the figures, partly due to the fact that Labour vastly underestimated how many Polish people would move to the country when their border rules were relaxed.

However, there has been a figure published on a government website predicting about 13,000 people will arrive from the two countries. This data has come from a previously unpublicised Whitehall piece of research, which was commissioned by the last Labour Government. But Mr Pickles has been quick to assert that he has no confidence in these figures.

"I know it's a bloody mistake to tell the truth but … the truth is nobody really knows," he said at a Parliamentary Press Gallery lunch in Westminster. "So all the government can do is to just be careful about the pull factors that might range from the health service, through housing, through benefits within the law to try and ensure there isn't an extra attraction to come here."

There have been no official forecasts on the predicted numbers from the Home Office, while Downing Street has stated that it will definitely not be publishing any predictions. However, other groups have put in their two pence and Migration Watch UK, an anti-immigration think tank, has estimated that 250,000 Romanians and Bulgarians will move to the UK in the first five years following the lifting of restrictions. Ukip has put the figure at between 350,000 and 400,000, while another Tory MP has suggested that the number will be around 270,000.