BIRKENHEAD MP Frank Field is calling on the Government to "examine with urgency" figures that suggest up to 50,000 people a year will migrate to the UK from Romania and Bulgaria.
His call is in response to Migration Watch UK’s report released today on the scale of potential immigration from the Eastern European countries when labour market controls are lifted at the end of this year.
Mr Field and Nicholas Soames, co-chairmen of the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration, said in a joint statement: “Migration Watch UK have produced an extraordinarily serious forecast which estimates that 50,000 immigrants a year for the next five years will come from Romania and Bulgaria.
“Given Migration Watch UK's excellent track record of forecasting the scale of immigration, the Cross Party Group on Balanced Migration calls on the Government to examine with urgency the impact of such numbers and how an influx on such a scale could be properly managed.
“Such an examination must include reviewing the current rules around accessing the benefits system which need tightening so that only those that have been in the country for a substantial amount of time and have contributed through taxes would have entitlement.
“The last Government appallingly underestimated the scale of the last wave of European migration and therefore did not plan for the impact – this must not be allowed to happen again.”
Some 21m Romanians and 7m Bulgarians will be free to travel and work in Britain when existing controls end on December 31 this year.
The report on Migration Watch’s website states that as in 2004, there is no purely statistical basis on which they could estimate the likely future flows of migration from Romania and Bulgaria.
“It is a matter of judgement. Our view is that they are likely to add between 30,000 and 70,000 to our population in each of the next five years of which about half will appear in the immigration statistics.
“So our central estimate is 50,000 a year or 250,000 in five years. Beyond that time frame it is not useful to speculate.”
The number expected to move to the UK became the centre of a controversy when Communities Secretary Eric Pickles confirmed he had seen estimates of how many would come but declined to divulge the information.
“It’s going to cause problems not just in terms of the housing market but also on social housing market,” Mr Pickles told the BBC's Sunday Politics programme.
Prime Minister David Cameron backed Mr Pickles' refusal to publish the Government’s immigration estimates.
“I completely support what Eric Pickles has said, which is don’t make official predictions unless and until you have got real confidence in those figures,” he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
He pointed out that estimates had proved unreliable in previous instances of EU migration.
Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Slovenia and Estonia all joined the European Union in 2004 – allowing them access to the UK labour market under "freedom of movement" rules.
Since then, the number of immigrants from these nations has risen from 94,000 to 1,079,000.