27 July, 2003
1. The Home Office estimate of between 5,000 and 13,000 immigrants
per year from the new Eastern European members of the EU fails to
take account of the new circumstances. It is even lower than the number
(20,000) who attempted to enter Britain in 2001. All such estimates
come down to guesswork but 40,000 a year would be more plausible.
If the Roma (Gypsies) start to migrate to the UK, the total could
be much higher.
2. On 10 June the Home Office published a report commissioned by
the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND). It contained forecasts
of net migration from the ten new East European members to the present
member countries of the EU, particularly the UK and Germany. Estimates
for the UK ranged from 5,000 to 13,000 net immigrants per year from
the date of accession in May 2004. 
3. MigrationwatchUK has now examined the report and has concluded
that it is simply not credible. There are six major reasons for
The absence of a series of directly relevant data means that
the statistical forecasts rely on assumptions in a mathematical
model of the past behaviour of migrants from entirely different
countries in quite different circumstances. This and other points
are spelt out by Professor Mervyn Stone, a member of the Advisory
Council of Migrationwatch, in a technical paper which can be
found on the Civitas website http://www.civitas.org.uk/pdf/EUmigration.pdf
He finds that "the Report's low predictions of net
migration for the UK are not based on any convincing modelling
of historical data series. The forecasts are found to be nothing
other than matters of lay judgement that can be made without
appeal to mathematical or econometric expertise."
The study took inadequate account of the fact that, unlike Britain,
the other major economies of the EU have decided to impose restrictions
on labour migration from the new East European members for a
transitional period of up to seven years.
Survey data shows
that Germany and Britain are the most favoured destinations.
But, if work in Germany will be illegal (with consequently
reduced wages) and if unemployment there remains at the current
level of about 4 million, we can expect a significant fraction
of the migrants to choose Britain.
No account is taken of the fact that these new citizens of the
European Union will be entitled to full social security benefits
on arrival in Britain provided that they show an intention of
taking up residence. Free education and health care will be
also available - the latter to a much higher standard
than is currently available in Eastern Europe. The study makes
a number of comparisons with the enlargement of the European
Union to include Portugal, Spain and Greece but benefits were,
at that time, not immediately available to new citizens.
In Eastern Europe, unlike in Southern Europe, there are a
number of minorities who consider themselves to be persecuted.
The most notable are the Roma of whom about 1.6 million live
in Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. Some have already
sought asylum in Britain. Others have arrived illegally. In
response, the British Government introduced special measures
at Prague Airport to cut off the flow; these remain in force
today but will end on accession. As from May 2004 all citizens
of these countries will have the immediate right of entry,
residence, work and benefits in Britain.
The report notes that nearly half of Poland’s 40 million
population rely on agriculture and that the productivity of
this sector is only 5% of that of the UK farming industry. Clearly,
this represents a huge pool of hidden unemployment. The report
recognises that the extension of the Common Agricultural Policy
to Eastern Europe will place these farmers under still greater
economic pressure which “could lead to an increase in
migration potential”. This does not appear to have been
factored in to their calculations.
The report notes that there is no run of statistics on which
to base an estimate for the future, partly because the Iron
Curtain prevented movement for many years. But the authors
seem not even to have looked at recent experience. In 2001
the number of travellers from the ten candidate countries
who were refused entry at British ports and removed was 14,750.
A further 3,500 were admitted on work permits. Thus, allowing
for dependants of the latter, nearly 20,000 came, or attempted
to come, to Britain in 2001. This total is already well above
the highest estimate in the report.
4. We have considered whether we can propose an alternative estimate.
Various estimates of total migration from Eastern European candidate
countries to the EU published so far have put the likely flow over
the next ten years at between 700,000 and 2.6 million. It would
not therefore, be unreasonable to take a mid-point of 1.5 million
or 150,000 per year. The question then is what proportion might
come to Britain. A Price Waterhouse Coopers study in 2001 found
that 10% of those wanting to move from Poland and 8% of those wishing
to move from the Czech Republic preferred the UK as a destination.
Given that the German labour market will be largely closed and that
there is already high unemployment there, it would not be unreasonable
to expect 20% to choose the UK. (This is also the proportion of
the population who speak English well enough to take part in a conversation.)
This gives 30,000 a year on the basis of our mean estimate. If 30%
is added for dependants, the overall figure would be about 40,000
5. The really wild card is the Roma question. A UN study last year
found that 80% were unemployed and one in five were permanently
hungry. The governments of Eastern Europe have been urged to pass
laws to outlaw discrimination. It is, however, hard to say what
impact this will have on the lives of the Roma and how they will
perceive the alternative of migrating to Western Europe, particularly
Britain. This is not a question that is amenable to mathematical
6. Any forecasts are highly questionable for such changed circumstances.
However, the Home Office upper estimate of 13,000 is both highly
theoretical and divorced from the realities of the new situation
after accession. It is almost worthless. A more realistic “back
of the envelope calculation” suggests 40,000 a year. A major
factor will be the reaction of the 1.6 million Roma in the candidate
countries to the new opportunities which they will enjoy.