It is unlikely that there will be any major increase following the ending of the final restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers.
Laszlo Ander, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion More than three million Bulgarians and Romanians have already left their homelands for parts of Europe with better job prospects but they have not gone to Britain.
That revelation yesterday by the European Union (EU) Commissioner in charge of labour law was timed to calm fears in Britain that hundreds of thousands of eastern Europeans will enter the UK this year. The quarantine period that has kept Bulgarians and Romanians out of the jobs market in Britain and eight other EU states has ended, seven years after the two countries achieved full EU membership.
But their citizens have long since enjoyed unrestricted access to 19 EU states, allowing millions of Bulgarians and Romanians to find work abroad, making it unlikely the UK will face the kind of mass immigration that followed Poland's EU entry in 2004.
Laszlo Ander, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said: "It is unlikely that there will be any major increase following the ending of the final restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers."
He said there were two million unfilled job vacancies in the EU, reinforcing the case for allowing EU citizens to move across borders to search for work. Despite a claim in Britain's Daily Mail that almost all flights from Romania to Britain are full, a spokeswoman for the Romanian airline, Blue Air, said: "We have loads of seats for the next days of January."
The Romanian Government dismissed fears of a sudden influx. "The UK for now is not even the preferred destination for Romanians," said a spokeswoman, Brandusa Predescu. The Daily Mail also claimed a similar rush to fill flights from Bulgaria.
But Professor John Salt of the migration research unit at University College London, told the BBC the number of advance bookings for flights from Bulgaria in the first quarter of 2014 was fewer than in the same period of last year.
Philippa Roe, Conservative leader of Westminster City Council, said the London boroughs had no idea how many arrivals to expect. She told the BBC: "The fear that everybody faces is those that come to Britain and either fail to find jobs and therefore fall back on our welfare system, or those who deliberately come here to pickpocket and aggressively beg."