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July 2014, Volume 21, Number 3

UK: A8 Migrants

When eight Central European countries joined the EU on May 1, 2004, only three "EU-15" member states, Ireland, Sweden and the UK, allowed freedom of movement for Poles and other East European workers from the so-called A8 countries.

Economists projected that up to 15,000 A8 migrants might move to the UK. They were wrong; over a million arrived in the UK, and Poles are now second only to Indians among immigrant groups in the UK. A backlash against "too many foreigners" contributed to the defeat of the ruling Labor Party in 2010 elections, and many Britons continue to believe there are "too many foreigners" in the UK.

Over 1.8 million non-British EU nationals were employed in the UK in March 2014, including 140,000 Romanians and Bulgarians.

The Lincolnshire city of Boston has the highest share of East European migrants in 2014; over 8,000 or 10 percent of local residents are non-British citizens. Many of the Eastern Europeans who intended to earn money quickly in the UK and return to their countries of origin have settled. Staples Vegetables is a 10,000-acre farm and packinghouse with up to 1,000 workers, mostly Eastern Europeans. Staples says that local workers do not apply for the farm jobs it offers and, if locals are hired, they rarely finish the season.

Integration. The British government in June 2014 made forcing someone into marriage a criminal offense. The government's forced marriage unit says that two-thirds of forced marriage cases involve South Asians. In some cases, families force their children who are British citizens to travel to Bangladesh, India or Pakistan and marry people there.

The British law defines forced marriage as one in which one or both spouses are coerced into marrying by "physical, psychological, financial, sexual or emotional pressure." An arranged marriage, on the other hand, is presumed to be one to which both parties consent.

Over 80 percent of the 1,300 forced marriage cases in 2013 involved UK residents marrying women abroad, and almost half involved British men marrying Pakistani women. Social workers estimate there are 5,000 to 8,000 cases of forced marriage annually in Britain.

Ex-Home Secretary David Blunkett, in a June 2014 interview announcing his retirement, said that he had made a mistake in pushing for a national ID card in a bid to control immigration. Blunkett said that, since 82 percent of British citizens have passports, making the UK the country with the highest share of citizens who have passports, he should instead have pushed for a requirement that British citizens present passports when applying for welfare benefits.

100,000. The Coalition government elected in 2010 promised to reduce net migration to the UK from the "hundreds of thousands" to less than 100,000 by 2015. In 2013, net migration was 212,000.

The government has reduced entries of non-EU foreigners, but more intra-EU migrants are arriving, including highly skilled migrants from France and Germany. Some UK businesses said the switch from non-EU to EU migrant workers reduced productivity.