Increase in numbers of migrant workers opting for Fenland

MORE eastern European workers are migrating to Fenland than ever before, it emerged this week.

Figures show that record numbers moved to Fenland and West Norfolk last year.

Nationally, the number of migrant workers entering the country fell by almost 25 per cent in 2009, with numbers applying for national Insurance numbers falling from 272,000 to 202,000.

But 1,530 eastern Europeans applied for National Insurance numbers in Fenland last year, up from 1,240 in 2008.

And in West Norfolk 1,550 eastern Europeans applied for National Insurance numbers in West Norfolk last year, compared to 1,260 in 2008 and 450 in 2004, when Britain’s borders were first opened.

North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham said: “It was a big issue during the election. A lot of people feel Britain shouldn’t have allowed citizens of the accession states immediate access to our labour markets.

“On the plus side a lot of these people do work incredibly hard and one has to face up to the fact they are doing a lot of jobs traditionally done by students and local people who were prepared to work long hours for low wages. One shouldn’t under-estimate the benefits they bring.”

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Earlier this year, a TV documentary set in Wisbech revealed many migrant workers did jobs that local workers did not want to turn their hands to, particularly in the food industry.

Asparagus farmer Victor Aveling, chair of the NE Cambs Conservative Association, said he would be unable to run his business without migrants to pick his crop.

Cumulatively, the figures show thousands have come to East Anglia from the so-called accession states such as Poland, Lithuania and the Czech Republic.

Their citizens have been allowed to move freely within Europe in search of work since 2004, when eight former Soviet bloc countries joined the EU.

National Insurance figures only take account of numbers arriving - not those who have subsequently departed. They do not include illegal migrants, asylum seekers or dependants of those applying for an NI number

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