Immigration Fears Spark Political Firestorm In Britain

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LONDON – They’re portrayedas pickpockets who will stealBritish jobs, too. Newspapersand politicians fear a wave ofimmigrants will come to Britainto beg, the unruly young oneswill stir up riots, and some willeven try to sell babies.For months, Britain’s tabloidshave repeatedly warned of thehorrors they believe will ensueafter Jan 1, when work restrictionswill be lifted across theEuropean Union for migrantsfrom Romania and Bulgaria -two of the trading bloc’s newestmembers. Those changes, thepapers claim, will surely unleasha mass exodus of the poor andunemployed from the two easternEuropean countries toBritain.”In January, the onlything left will be the goat,” aDaily Mail headline proclaimed,referring to a remote Romanianvillage where, the paperclaimed, everyone was preparingto move to Britain for thehigher wages and generous welfarebenefits. “We’re importinga crime wave from Romania andBulgaria,” another headlinedeclared, quoting aConservative lawmaker whotold Parliament that most pickpocketson British streets hailfrom Romania. The alarmingstories about a possibleRomanian and Bulgarian influx,and a government scramble totighten welfare rules, are part ofthe latest chapter in an increasinglybitter debate aboutBritain’s immigration policiesand its uneasy relationship withthe EU. Right-wing politicianshave won over voters by arguingthat foreigners, particularly easternEuropeans, are floodingBritain’s job market with cheaplabor and exploiting the country’sbenefits system.