A Study by Oxford University’s Migration Observatory published on December 30th 2014 reported that there hasn’t been a huge influx of Romanian and Bulgarian (often referred to as A2) immigrants to the UK over 2014, as many as expected.
A year after EU countries were legally required to stop restricting Romanian and Bulgarian migrants’ access to labour markets, the report concluded, “The number of A2-born population grew by a similar amount before and after transitional controls were ended, with most of the growth occurring before… controls were lifted.”
Following the flurry of speculation in the media about how many A2 migrants would come to the UK after the ending of transition controls, the University of Oxford Migration Observatory sought to offer independent and evidence-based analysis of migration statistics used by the press.
Head of Media and Communications at The Migration Observatory, Robert McNeil told Cherwell, “News stories are more than just the transfer of information, they are a part of a ‘product’ – be that a newspaper, or a TV programme or whatever. The Migration Observatory works to inform public debate, making an effort to ensure the correct numbers are used, but we don’t take a view on how they should be interpreted.
“The 2013 stories about the anticipated scale of the movement of Bulgarian and Romanian migrants to the UK after January 1 2014 stemmed from different news organisations’ efforts to segment their audience – so depending on the audiences, some media suggested that the numbers would be large, others that they would be small, but, critically, none actually knew how many would come.”
He added that the language of scale is relative and therefore the statistics could be used in different ways, with the increase by September 2014 of 47,000 being interpreted as a serious influx of immigrants by some media outlets, whilst others saw it as essentially no different to the increase of 45,000 of 2013.
Pembroke undergraduate Carl Gregs commented, “There seems to be an overwhelming negative bias against A2 migrants throughout the entire media spectrum, which I personally wouldn’t have expected. Obviously they are all allowed to voice an opinion. But seeing as the immigration wave they were scaremongering about did not happen as this data shows, I reckon it was the wrong opinion – especially the tabloid publications seem very inadequate.”
The report specifically discussed the significant increase in the number of National Insurance Numbers allocated to Romanian and Bulgarian-born people in 2014 recently reported by press, putting the large amount down to the decision of migrants already living in the UK before 2014 to apply for NINs, rather than a “significant spike” in the number of migrants themselves.
Nonetheless, The Migration Observatory stated that it was “less clear” to what degree the controls actually prevented people from joining the UK labour market after their introduction in 2007.