Cambs forms part of Britain's migration capital

CAMBRIDGESHIRE has become part of the migration capital of Britain and with the rest of East Anglia is now home to more foreign workers than London it emerged today (Tuesday). Home Office figures show 447,000 immigrants have applied to the government s w

CAMBRIDGESHIRE has become part of the migration capital of Britain and with the rest of East Anglia is now home to more foreign workers than London it emerged today (Tuesday).

Home Office figures show 447,000 immigrants have applied to the government's worker registration scheme since May 2004, when eight former communist countries joined the European Union.

And just under 65,000 of them, around 15pc of the UK total, have made their homes in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire or Essex.

The figure - almost the equivalent of Fenland - compares with 58,580 Eastern European workers in London and 51,370 in the Midlands.

It does not include illegal immigrants, who are believed to number more than 500,000, or self employed workers such as those in many construction trades believed to employ a significant number of Eastern Europeans.

Research commissioned by the Government had previously estimated that annual applications from all of the so-called A8 countries - Poland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia and Slovenia - would be no more than 5,000 to 13,000.

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Last night there were concerns immigration would increase from January, when Romania and Bulgaria join the EU.

Think-tank Migrationwatch has predicted 300,000 Romanian and Bulgarian workers could arrive in the UK over a 20-month period unless access to the labour market is restricted.

Its chairman Sir Andrew Green said: "The case for placing restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians is now unanswerable. There must also be a sharp reduction in work permits issued to the rest of the world - a number which has quadrupled under the present Government."

The left-wing Institute for Public Policy Research estimated around 56,000 Romanian and Bulgarian workers would come to Britain next year.

Immigration figures came after former Home Office minister John Denham called on the Government to delay allowing people from Bulgaria and Romania to work here.

Mr Denham, who chairs the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, said the country needed "a breathing space".

Another former minister, Frank Field, told Radio Four's World at One: "We foolishly went ahead and had an open-door policy and instead of between 5,000 and 13,000 people arriving, in the first year something like half a million did.

"We've now got Bulgaria and Romania coming down the road at us. We need to impose those barriers until there is a Europe-wide policy."

Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling insisted at the weekend that there would be no "open door" to migrant workers.

His remarks were widely interpreted as a signal that the Government was preparing some form of control on workers coming from the two former Soviet bloc states.

Shadow immigration minister Damian Green said: "These figures make it all the more urgent that the Government takes an early decision and stops ducking and diving on the issue of Bulgaria and Romania entering the EU.

"It is vital that we learn the lessons of the unprecedented numbers who came into this country after the last expansion of the EU. "Controlled immigration makes life much better for everyone involved. It ensures the public service and housing infrastructure can cope and avoids people coming here only to end up without work and on the streets."

There have been warnings council tax may have to rise to cover the cost of providing extra services for migrant workers. They include more English teachers to teach English to increasing numbers of foreign pupils in some areas.

A recent conference in Lincolnshire heard the number of migrants arriving to work in the booming food and flower packing industries were placing additional strains on the amount of housing available and more new homes would have to be built to cope.

A report leaked last month said ministers could be forced to abandon their refusal to grant council houses and welfare benefits to new arrivals who do not work, which in turn would attract further immigrants.

It said hospital beds were being "blocked" by eastern European patients because they cannot claim social care and benefits if they leave.

And towns and cities where large numbers of new immigrants have settled are now calling for millions of pounds of extra funding to avoid increasing council tax.

Home Office minister Tony McNulty said: "The latest worker registration scheme figures show that migrant workers from the accession states are benefiting the UK, by filling skills and labour gaps that cannot be met from the UK-born population.

"We are yet to take a decision as to what access Bulgarian and Romanian nationals will have to our labour market when they join the EU.

"Any decision will be based on objective factors including an evaluation of our labour market needs and the impact of the A8 accession, but also the position of other member states.'

Poles make up the vast majority of those on the worker registration scheme 264,560 - followed by Lithuanians (50,535) and Slovakians (44,300).

CBI director-general Richard Lambert said: "The UK has benefited greatly from the hard work of migrants from new accession countries, such as Poland and Lithuania.

"But it is only right that the UK takes the time to reflect on the earlier experiences and debates how and when to welcome the next phase of EU accession countries.

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