Romania and Bulgaria joining the European Union on Monday has once again raised concerns over unbridled immigration into Britain and the impact it would have on immigrants from non-EU countries such as India. Unlike the eight countries that joined the EU in 2004, citizens of Romania and Bulgaria will not have unfettered right to employment in Britain. But already reports from Bulgaria say that fake degrees are being sold to help Bulgarians find work in Britain.
Immigrants from India and other non-EU countries anticipate a further tightening of rules. The Home Office has changed rules in the Highly Skilled Migrants Programme (HSMP) that are seen to be restrictive to citizens of non-EU countries. New tests and longer qualifying periods (4 to 5 years) have been added to procedures for non-EU nationals in the UK for permanent settlement.
Millions of skilled migrants from India and other non-EU countries are currently waiting for judicial outcome of the change in rules last April that made it difficult for non-EU doctors to find employment in the National Health Service. The hearing of the judicial review sought by doctors of Indian origin has been completed and the judgment is expected later this month.
Official sources say that the British employment market has been vastly enhanced by the enlargement of the EU and the increase in the number of trained British medical and other graduates. This has affected the employment prospects of non-EU nationals.
Official figures have shown a much higher than earlier anticipated number of immigrants from the countries joined the EU in 2004. This has once again placed immigration on the public agenda - the only difference is that the colour of concern has shifted from the earlier 'black or brown' immigration to 'white' immigration from east European countries.
The concerns and fears currently expressed are similar to the ones that were cited when many people from Asia and Africa and the Caribbean islands migrated to Britain in the 1960s and 1970s.
Citizens of what are called Accession 8 (A8) countries that joined the European Union (EU) on May 1, 2004, are eligible to work in Britain. The eight countries are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.
Ireland, Sweden and Britain are the only countries that have not imposed restrictions on citizens of the A8 countries on taking up employment in these countries. Three more countries are expected to join the EU in 2007: Croatia, Turkey and the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia.
The most famous example of change since the migration of people from the A8 countries is what is called the phenomenon of 'Polish plumbers' - plumbers from Poland virtually taking over the plumbing industry. Official records show that 230,000 Poles have registered to live and work in Britain. The number of immigrants to Britain since the A8 countries joined the EU is estimated at 600,000. The British government's original prediction of immigration from these countries was between 5,000 and 13,000 a year.
Ministers have expressed concern that the surge in immigration from these countries would put enormous pressure on Britain's education, health and welfare service. For example, thousands of English language teachers would be required to teach the language to the children of these new immigrants.
The Home Office report by Joan Ryan, junior immigration minister - leaked to the media some time ago - reveals that government departments have been ordered to draw up emergency plans to deal with pressure on public services from an expected 'step change' in immigration levels from Romania and Bulgaria.
The report, called 'Migration from Eastern Europe:Impact on Public Services and Community Cohesion', says that eastern European patients are also already 'blocking' hospital beds because they are ineligible for social care and benefits if they leave, it claims.