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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Migration and mobility of labour

A feisty reply from a young Bulgarian this week to the recent comments about Bulgaria from the Leader of the British Independence Party .
Speaking last week on BBC's Question Time, Nigel Farage apparently slammed Bulgaria as “a country in a terrible state, where the judiciary is not independent and the mafia basically runs the economy” and from which therefore Bulgarians would be wanting to flee when Britain lifts its current restrictions on the entry of Bulgarian and Romanian workers in exactly one year. That this was no isolated comment can be seen from this article published recently by one of his colleagues in the European Parliament.
What was impressive about Ralitsa Behar’s open letter was not just its clarity of argument but its civilised courtesy (and that she focused on this marginal figure rather than the UK Government which is apparently considering a negative campaign to disourage further immigration from these 2 copuntries). She concedes the scale of the political and administrative problems countries such as Bulgaria and Romania have (she cleverly resists the temptation of suggesting that they are not dissimilar to those of other, older member countries who will not be mentioned here!!), corrects some of the factual errors in Farange’s (good English name that!!) outburst but basically takes exception to
Such statements such as "If I was a Bulgarian, I would be packing my bags now, wanting to come to Britain" are bold and somewhat inappropriate. And since you were focusing on the problems in our country and why we would choose to come live in your country, let me tell you why I chose to "pack my bags (after successfully obtaining her degree from the University of Edinburgh), wanting to go back to Bulgaria".
Firstly, Bulgaria is a country with great potential. I am a firm believer that young people, who study abroad should come back to Bulgaria to pursue their career goals. Having a degree from a foreign university, I realised that my know-how would be much more needed here, than in the UK. After all, we are the future of our country and I believe that we are the ones who can bring this country forward.
Her open letter was published on Sofia Weekly and it (and the positive response it has had) is well worth reading. 

I can sympathise with her arguments since I too felt the need to migrate twice in my life - first to London (England for us Scots has always been another country) after completing my degree at Glasgow University but felt compelled (for the same reasons she has expressed so well) to return to Scotland where I had a marvellous opportunity (for 25 years) to help reshape government systems. Sadly the political route I had chosen could offer me none of the security a family man required – and the (much-maligned) European Union gave me the chance in the last 22 years to reinvent myself as a nomadic “consultant”. Now my home is here - in the Balkans and Carpathians. 

And I am not the only example of emigration; many European indeed are escaping the European gloom to further shores. And a recent survey showed that almost half of Brits would like to leave the country! (although I'm a bit dubious about the size of the sample, there's little doubt that a lot of English people are now deeply unhappy about the quality of their life in the country and imagine what life (particularly retirement) would be like elsewhere). That, of course, is a very different (and more privileged) position from the stark survival realities which most often have faced emigrants over the ages.
Again Scotland has its own bitter experience of that - which is reflected in the work of many Scottish artists - the painting which heads the post is one painted in 1883 about the pain of leaving a loved home (Lochaber)  

The UK has an appropriately elitist (if not downright class) and hypocritical view of immigration. Those who shape opinion have always recognised the great contribution it has made both to its intellectual life (in the first part of the 20th century); eating habits (as Italians, Indians and others have arrived in different waves); and to the economy. 
From the comfortable homes of the middle (and “chattering” classes) it has been easy to recognise the last of these – less easy for those on the margins of work. And the populist attack on immigration has been an increasingly difficult temptation for politicians to resist! So it has become a major issue in the increasingly simplistic and polarised process which passes these days for political discourse in England.
And “experts” have also underestimated the immigrant flows in recent years. The Office for National Statistics apparently (??) predicted fewer than 20,000 eastern Europeans would enter each year after the 2004 wave of new EU members (to which UK gave open entry) but its figures show that about 350,000 were working in Britain last year. The latest census has now revealed that Polish is now the UK’s second language!
Projections which are now being made about immigration from Bulgaria and Romania inot Britain (reflecting the poor state of the current UK economy) when that becomes easier in 2014 are now being viewed with some cynicism   
For more technical overviews see here and here. And here is a good post from a UK Migrants' Rights website

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