Posted on February 19th 2013
One would imagine Daily Express readers would have bored of it by now, but the editor obviously thinks the fear has not been instilled deeply enough, the intolerance enflamed high enough or the xenophobia whipped up adequately. Today (19 February) saw the twentieth article about the coming ‘flood’ of immigrants from Romania and/or Bulgaria at the beginning of 2014. Given that we’re a year away from the restrictions on working and movement being lifted, it promises to be a grim year for Express readers.
Most articles are accompanied by pictures of grubby horse and carts, grubby children or of people walking through grubby streets carrying plastic bags. It’s a pretty desperate picture the paper is printing.
Earlier In January, the articles reported Migration Watch’s projection of 50,000 migrants a year due to arrive from the two countries. Now that tame figure has been dropped as the editor has a preference for “the 4 million poverty stricken Bulgarians” who said they might like to come over (duration undefined, television poll) to escape poverty. (Check that link, you get two pictures of grubby faced kids with that one) Alternatively they use the figure of 29 million – the combined total population of the two countries – who will be eligible to move to other countries in the EU. (Don’t click that link, you just get a picture of Boris Johnson)
Not even every angle of the prospect of people moving to these shores is investigated – for that you have to check the financial or the liberal papers – each article centres around the need to restrict numbers, put curbs on welfare entitlements or the coming crime wave. If countries could sue for libel, Bulgaria and Romania should be on the phone to their solicitors right now.
The Economist argues that the government should not be pandering to anti-immigrant feeling in the UK, but battling to reduce the intolerance – a tall order one might think when the Express and other papers are considered. But this has not been attempted by a government or a political party of any hue of late – note Ed Milliband’s constant apologising and the fact the Gordon Brown could only mutter the words that sparked “Bigotgate” when he thought nobody could hear.
The building of myths and rumours about what to expect in 2014 goes not without challenge, in fora like politics.co.uk, MRN and the Guardian. The projections are in all pretty much worthless. There are so many factors in play. Unlike when Polish people were allowed to move to the UK, Romanians and Bulgarians are presented with a real choice of countries including Germany and France. The economic climate in the UK and across Europe is very different from 2004 when Poland and other eastern European states joined the EU. A couple of weeks ago, the BBC reported that no one had even asked the Romanian and Bulgarian governments about how many of their citizens would be likely to move to the UK next year. With a characteristic paucity of research, Migration Watch is braying about getting their guess closer to what happened in 2004, and pretending that their guess is better than anyone else’s this time round.
In these uncertain economic times, projections for a year from now on any issue are brave or foolhardy, no one can even guess if the economy will start to grow again let alone if the prospect of moving to the UK is going to be irresistible for 4 million people.
But indulge us some other predictions. The propaganda campaign denigrating the UK in Romania and Bulgaria is as stupid as it would be ineffective and will not happen. The only way to make things harmonious in 2014 is to properly prepare for any migrants coming here – insuring the minimum wage applies to ALL working in the UK and building more housing to alleviate pressures for those of us already living here.
Our fear, however, is that Romanians and Bulgarians will continue to be used as scapegoats and figures to fear throughout 2013 and beyond. This can only be in the interests of those who have questions to answer about their role in the poverty and insecurity already being visited by the inhabitants of the United Kingdom.