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Eastern European Immigration To The United Kingdom Economics Essay

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The United Kingdom is a region where immigration and emigration co-exist, and its British citizens have always been accomodating to the migrant inflow. There has been no clear evidence as to when migrants first came into the region. However, the post-war effect was the migration of the people from the “New Commonwealth” which was viewed as an influx of non-white races, such as Caribbeans, Indians and those from Bangladesh. The high migration was from 1950 to 1970 slowly made the UK a significant player in the European labour market. The migration has always been considered long-term or temporary (Glover et al., 2001).

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Immigration to the UK began to increase when the government from the EU Accession countries, also referred to as the A8, have provided a policy that allowed migration from the A8 countries to the UK. The A8 countries are the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Migrants from these regions have considered economic factors as one of the main reasons to move out of their respective nations into the United Kingdom, which has a relatively attractive economic status over the past years (Blanchflower, Saleheen and Shadforth, 2007).

Migration from Eastern Europe began during the 1900’s because of the Russian communist sovereign. This era was marked by a high flow of migrants from Russian territories, all determined to escape the difficulties brought about by a communist republic. It was recorded that migration was from Eastern to Western Europe, with few people returning to their original residence (Ghatak and Piperakis, n.d.). The primary estimate of migrants conducted by the Labour government was between 5000 to 13000, but the actual resultant was far more than what was expected (Lakasing and Mirza, 2009).

An example of such migrants are the people coming from Poland. The United Kingdom opened its doors to the Polish community to help Polish soldiers and support the British labour market. In 1939, migration from Poland to its neighbouring countries was due to the Soviet brutality and deportation. Polish soldiers were forced to reside outside the borders of their country to reform, and at the end of the war, some have decided to settle in the United Kingdom and even brought with them their families. The twentieth century marked the increased flow of Eastern European migrants in different nations in Europe, and even outside Europe, particularly United States and Australia. The free movement after the war resulted in the reconfiguration of the political structure in Europe, and 2004 has been marked as the turning point for the Polish migration to the United Kingdom (Burell, 2009).

In 2004, the UK has experienced a fast inflow of migrant workers from the A8 countries, and these workers have been given the freedom to migrate and work in the UK even without any employment permit. This was a political strategy to get workers for low-paying jobs and empty slots for skilled workers (Anderson, Ruhs, Rogaly and Spencer, 2006).

Prior to the May 1st accession of the A8 workers, the Workers Registration Scheme [WRS] was created to modulate the access of the A8 workers to different welfare benefits and gather data that will aid in regulating the inflows and creation of policies. The WRS has mandated that A8 workers who have acquired jobs in the UK in a period of one month must register with the Home Office (Anderson et al., 2006).

Asylum seekers have also been consistently being monitored by the UK government, Roma from the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania have entered the UK borders by placing themselves under the Eurostar train or by hiding themselves in enormous containers being delivered to the UK (Stevens, 2003). In the early 1980s, 150,000 asylum seekers migrate per year, sharply increased in 1992 to 850,000 and went down again to 380,000 in 1997. The sharp increase in the number of asylum seekers in 1992 was brought about by the collapse of Soviet Union and other issues related to the split of Yugoslavia (Hatton and Williamson, 2004).

In general, the East to West migration of Eastern Europeans was brought about by the change from communism to a socialist type of government, the removal of the restrictions to travel across the region and the re-delineation of individual rights (Ghatak, Silaghi and Daly, 2008). Aside from the political changes, the accession of the ten new countries, including the A8 countries, to the European Union on May 2004 and expansion of the EU further increased the number of immigrants to the UK, Sweden and Ireland. The three mentioned countries are the only regions which have freely opened its labour market to the A8 migrant workers upon accession in 2004. They have been able to get jobs without restrictions and were provided the right to live like UK citizens. Moreover, these migrant workers can be joined by their dependants (Anderson et al., 2006).

Factors affecting the Immigration of European to the UK

Economic factors have been regarded as the most significant motivating factor for individuals to migrate. It is a fact that the economic status in Central and Eastern European countries have changed from the communist period. The communist period was marked by a low employment rate and low wages for the working population. This has led to an unstable economy and low per capita income during that era. These factors have led individuals to consider migrating to other regions to improve their lifestyle and economic status, and minimize the effect of being deprived economically in their own countries (Ghatak, n.d.).

Globalisation is a significant aspect in the migration trends as the improvement and economic growth of London, as paralleled to that of New York City, has made the migrants more mobile because the transportation cost has been reduced and people have become more appreciative of the employment opportunities that are available in the region. The decrease in the cost for transportation has encouraged the movement of migrant workers into the UK and has enforced its labour market (Glover et al., 2001).

The high employment rate and high per capita income are the main reasons why A8 countries migrate to the UK. Improvement in the GDP and employment rates in the A8 countries may eventually result to lower migrations to the UK. Similar to situations in other countries, the individual assesses the economic state of the country and compares the benefits and disadvantages of possible migration. If there is more to gain compared to that of staying in their own countries, these individuals have greater probability to migrate (Blanchflower, 2007).

Two general factors affecting professionals and skilled people to migrate have been shown to be correlated, namely the goal to leave and the realization of finding what they want somewhere else. The external force which serves as the driving mechanism makes individuals think of leaving their home country. These external forces are commonly in the form of job dissatisfaction resulting from low salaries or less benefits in their work area; unemployment or underemployment and uncontrollable social and political disturbances that disrupts the economic state of the individual. The realization of finding what these individuals want are also economic in aspect, just the same as most of the reasons why they migrate. Being able to find a better-paying job, as well as getting a more specialized exposure to the field of work are appealing to those workers who are currently unsatisfied. Several factors will then be considered in terms of the location for migration. Some of these factors are job opportunity, liberalised immigration policies, language barriers, salary, standard and cost of living, better job experience and fulfillment, environmental factors and government policies with regards to the acceptance of family members for petition. All these factors are inter-related, but different cultures and individual perspectives also affects the decisions being made by the professionals when migration is being considered (Home Office, 2002).

Based on the survey conducted by the Home Office (2002), the UK was chosen by only 42% of their respondents as the most probable location to migrate, aside from United States, New Zealand, Australia or Europe. The UK culture and location as well as the language in the region has also been considered as significant factors for migration. The main advantage of the UK against USA was that the UK was the first to open its gates to migrant workers, providing equal job opportunities, was then seen as a provider of a less stressful work environment and that the provided jobs were better in terms of the job satisfaction and fulfillment of the migrant workers. Factors such as the intense climate, problems in procurement of work permits and distance from loved ones have been identified to reduce migration to the UK (Home Office, 2002).

Political factors that caused migration have been common to both the Central and Eastern Europe. The migration policies that have been implemented in the early 1990s have significantly affected migration flow. Some of these policies are the liberalisation for visas within countries in Europe and legal entry of the working immigrants. These policies have dramatically encouraged citizens from other European regions, as well as the non-EU migrants to try to migrate to the first world countries in Europe, including the UK (Ghatak, n.d.).

Humanitarian factors such as in the case of refugees have been considered one of the reasons for immigration. The number of refugees greatly depends on the violence in the events taking place in their respective national residence. Some of these events are Coup d’etat, government crises, guerrilla warfare and civil war; among which, civil war generated the most number of refugees with an estimate of 35 refugees for every one thousand of the population. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees [UNHCR] in the Geneva Convention for Refugees has referred to a refugee as someone who can no longer return to the country that he or she normally resides in because of possible persecution. The UNHCR have identified that most of these refugees are in Third World countries (Hatton, 2004).

The refugees, in the course of their nations’ history, have moved farther away from their home where there is economic and political conflict, as well as threats to their safety, heading to the closest neighbouring country where they seek for temporary escape. However, most refugees go back to their homes as soon as the war ends because of the difficulties that they encounter in the refugee camps. The most appealing escape from the refugee camps is to cross borders of the neighbouring countries, wherein the refugees are provided only temporary resettlement and restricted rights in the countries that they have escaped to. These temporary privileges are the refugees’ reasons for both the migration from and return to their respective homes (Hatton, 2004).

The long process required for refugees to seek protection in neighbouring countries takes a very long time and this has also been a problem because in most cases, smuggling and illegal entry into the neighbouring regions occur (Hatton, 2004). It has been estimated that 50% of the asylum seekers have been reported to enter UK, Germany and France by smuggling operations; and these refugees needed to pay at least $4000 to be able to get smuggled through Europe (Morrison and Crossland, 2001). Data gathered about the asylum seekers show the uncertainties that are being encountered by these people who really have no idea of how and where their destination will be as the route that the smuggling operations take are dependent on the tightness of the security in the regions they are about to cross (Hatton, 2004). A 13-year pooled regression study by Thielemann (2003) on 20 countries showed that factors such as employment rate, number of foreign nationals and the destination country’s liberalised perspective on immigration and acceptance of asylum seekers are the key determinants for immigration.

The increased influx of working migrants and asylum seekers to the UK have led to the formation of a point-based system to properly control the movement of immigrants into the UK. This type of system aimed at giving more restrictions to those who intend to apply for legal immigration in the UK, and this system also minimizes the number of possible refugees that will enter the UK illegally (Coleman, 2008). The main goal of this point system is to slow down the population of UK, with the aim of controlling the pace of immigration.

Types and Number of European Immigrants in the UK

Immigration in the UK has been reported to be half of the total British population growth from 1991 to 2001. Some surveys have evaluated that most of the immigrants have settled in London, and Wembley has even reached half the population in its region. Three areas have also been identified in which there was a marked rise in the number of immigrants, namely Scotland, South-West and North-East England (news.bbc.co.uk, 2005).

The number of working migrants in the UK have increased from 30,000 in the 1990s to about 80,000 in the early 2000. The labour market of the UK varies from EU nationals to non-EU nationals, but the most of which belong to the A8 countries. Professionals from other regions with the aim of improving their economic situation in first world regions also make up the immigrant population in the UK, but 90% of the aspiring immigrants are students and asylum-seekers (Coleman, 2008). The movement of foreign workers in the UK have shown that about 20% are IT professionals and about 8% work for financial services (Home Office, 2002).

In 2006, the estimated number of refugees all over the world is about 12 million. This is a 400% increase compared to the estimated number during the 1970s, and is still expected to increase further based on the trends in the past decades. Furthermore, approximately 50,000 to 500,000 asylum seekers have resettled in developed countries from 1970 to 2006 (Hatton, 2004).

Polish nationalities have been considered as one of the most significant ethnic population of the migrants in the UK. Being approximated at about 540,000 migrants, the Polish community is expected to grow even more in terms of the movement of the population from their country to the UK (Burell, 2009). However, in 2007, despite the 237,000 increase in immigrants in the UK, there was a recorded decline in the number of Polish migrant workers going into the UK. The same trend is also observed with that of Latvia (news.bbc.co.uk., 2008).

In 2009, a decrease in migration was observed, from 160,000 to 142,000, however, the data gathered did not include the number of asylum seekers, as well as the mobility of migrants in the Northern Ireland. A 59% increase was observed in the number of people that have become UK citizens, amounting to 203,790 individuals (news.bbc.co.uk., 2010).

The increase in the number of migrants has not been only on the asylum seekers, but almost all categories of the immigrants currently living in the UK. The influx of migrants have been associated with the improvement of the economy in terms of employment opportunities, and rise in GDP. Asylum seekers, illegal aliens and overstayers were shown to be related to economic and political issues. The entry of illegal migrants is not feasible to be empirically measured but with the strong connection between migration and economic status, the number of illegal migrants is assumed to be increasing (Glover et al., 2001).

References Cited

Anderson, B., M. Ruhs, B. Rogaly and S. Spencer. 2006. Fair Enough? Central and East

European Migrants in Low-Wage Employment in the UK. Retrieved from www.compas.ox.ac.uk/changingstatus.

Blanchflower, D., J. Saleheen and C. Shadforth. 2007. The Impact of the Recent Migration from

Eastern Europe on the UK Economy. Retrieved from http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/publications/speeches/2007/speech297.pdf.

“British Immigration Map Revealed”. 2005. Retrieved from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4218740.stm.

Burell, K. 2009. Polish Migration to the UK in the New European Union. Retrieved from http://www.ashgate.com/pdf/SamplePages/Polish_Migration_to_the_UK_in_the_New_E uropean_Union_Intro.pdf

Coleman, B. 2008. Immigration in the EU and the UK: A Conflict of Interests and Policy.

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Countries and the UK. Retrieved from http://eprints.kingston.ac.uk/2093/1/Ghatak-S-


Glover, S., C. Gott, A. Loizillon, J. Portes, R. Price, S. Spencer, V. Srinivasan and C. Willis. 2001. Migration: An Economic and Social Analysis. Retrieved from http://rds.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/pdfs/occ67-migration.pdf

Hatton, T.J. and J.G. Williamson. Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Policy in Europe. Retrieved

from http://www.nber.org/papers/w10680.pdf.

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Lakasing, E. and Z. Mirza. 2009. The Health of Britain’s Polish Migrants: A Suitable Case for

History Taking and Examination. The British Journal of General Practice 59 (559): 138 – 139.

Morrison, J. and B. Crosland. 2001. The Trafficking and Smuggling of Refugees: The End Game

in European Asylum Policy?. UNHCR Working Paper No. 39, Geneva: UNHCR.

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