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Bulgaria's Young People Hit Back At Britain On Immigration

posted 4 Feb 2013, 10:16 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 4 Feb 2013, 10:17 ]

Young Bulgarians react to efforts to deter their nationals from emigrating to Britain, saying they want to be treated as full members of the European Union.

SOFIABULGARIA (FEBRUARY 01, 2012) (REUTERS) - Young Bulgarians are complaining that efforts to deter them from emigrating to Britain leave them stigmatized as second-class members of the European Union.

Transitional rules for the EU's two newest and poorest members Romania and Bulgariawill ease at the start of 2014, giving their citizens the right to live and work anywhere in the 27-nation bloc. In Britain, one of Europe's most popular migration destinations, the right-leaning press has warned that "hordes" will pour in from Bulgaria and Romania. One lobby group says it thinks 50,000 Bulgarians or Romanians will enter every year for the first five years.

Under pressure from public opinion and the eurosceptic UK Independence Party (UKIP) opposition party, Britain's Conservative-led coalition is looking for ways to curb immigration within EU rules. British media have said the government is considering an ad campaign to remind Romanians and Bulgarians of restrictions on state benefit payments - and of Britain's damp, windy weather.

Bulgarian young people have used social networks to express their feelings about being treated as second class EU citizens.

Konstantin Batchvarov lives and works in the UK. He says that the Bulgarian governmentdoesn't care well for its people, while Britain takes good care of their tax payers. "Unfortunately this campaign proved to be too aggressive and I do not like being treated as a member of a third world country, as they think Bulgarians and Romanians are," Batchvarov said. "Again and again we are victims of a political game between local politicians in Britain. I think with time, when the elections in Britain become history, this campaign will die down and nobody will remember it," he added.

Ralitsa Behar studied for four years at Edinburgh University. She returned to Bulgariabecause she felt there would find better career opportunities in her home country. Behar was bothered by the negative campaign and wrote an open letter to UKIP leader Nigel Farage, which circulated through all Bulgarian media. "I would say I was surprised by Mr Farage's statement on BBC Question Time. This video urged me absolutely sincerely to defend my country's reputation, to write an open letter to him, where I point out that most of what he said about us is not correct. Not only was the statistical data not correct, but neither was what he said about us as people," she said. "The other thing what bothered me was that Mr Farage tried to deny us a basic right, as EU members. This is the basic right of any EU citizen to travel and work in any country in the EU. Why, as a Bulgarian, I should be treated differently from a German or British person? Are we not together in the EU, was it not the very purpose of the EU? This should be at the centre of the discussion (about Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants in the UK). This right should not be denied," she added.

Immigration is one of the British public's biggest concerns and UKIP - which pledges to end "mass, uncontrolled immigration" - is threatening to draw a substantial number of votes from Cameron's Conservatives in the 2015 election.

Many eastern Europeans, including Poles, Hungarians and Czechs, have come to work in Britain since their countries joined the EU. Government data published on Thursday (January 31) showed that Polish was now Britain's second most commonly spoken language.

Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, three years after their central European neighbours, and millions of their citizens have already left to work in countries such asItaly and Spain, which have been easing restrictions since 2009.

But the two Balkan countries still lag behind in establishing strong legal systems to tackle organised crime and corruption.

In addition to the restrictions on migration, they are still excluded from the passport-free Schengen zone and their justice systems are subject to special monitoring by Brussels.