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Work restrictions will continue for Bulgarians and Romanians

18 December 2008

The government has announced that Bulgarians and Romanians will not get free access to the British labour market.

The decision, which follows advice from the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC), ensures that the interests of British workers are protected, and that those migrant workers who can come here to work have skills that are needed. 

Residents of Bulgaria and Romania have had only limited access to British jobs since they joined the European Union in January 2007.

Skilled workers the country needs have always been able to come to the UK to work, but access to low-skilled jobs has been restricted to the seasonal agricultural workers scheme (SAWS) and the sector-based scheme (SBS) for food processing. 

The decision to keep those restrictions in place means that the UK can continue to benefit from the positive economic contribution Bulgarian and Romanian workers make, while continuing to monitor the impact of their accession on the labour market.  

Protecting British workers

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas called the move 'prudent', and said that it would protect British workers.

He said, 'It is essential that only those we need can come here to work, and that is why we have decided to continue restricting the work that Bulgarian and Romanians can do here. 

'We have already suspended tier three of the points based system to stop low skilled migrants from outside the European economic area entering the UK.'

More agricultural workers allowed

As part of today’s announcement the Home Office increased the quota for the seasonal agricultural workers scheme, following advice from the MAC, which identified worker shortages.

In 2009, the number of Bulgarians and Romanians admitted under the scheme will increase from 16,250 to 21,250.

The quota for the sector-based scheme for food processing will remain at 3,500. 

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