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Guesstimates won’t help the UK prepare for Romanian and Bulgarian migration

15 Feb 2013

It is impossible for the Government – or anyone else – to develop an effective method to predict the number of migrants who will come to the UK from Romania and Bulgaria (the ‘A2’ states) when workers from these countries gain full access to the EU labour market in 2014, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said today.

This means that any numbers provided will be, at best, informed guesses and therefore not reliable enough to develop policy responses. The intensifying speculation about the overall number migrants from the A2 who may come to Britain also brushes over the fact that while impacts are likely to be regionally and neighbourhood specific, there is no way of knowing where migrants will choose to live.

Dr Scott Blinder, Acting Director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said: “It is understandable that people want to have some certainty about what will happen when Romanian and Bulgarian workers have full access to the UK labour market, but the truth is that nobody knows and that this speculation does nothing to help the UK to prepare.

“Even if one of the guesses being put forward at the moment proves to be correct, the only way we will know that is after the event – meaning that any efforts to develop policy around these speculative figures would be a risky gamble.”

Dr Blinder added that it is important that preparations for 2014 A2 migration are not defined by a guessing game, and that if any estimates are published it must be made extremely clear that they provide no actual certainty about how many people will arrive or where they will go.

He said: “As the pressure mounts to provide some sort of estimates of the number of A2 migrants who might come to the UK – including Freedom of Information requests to Government departments – it is important that if any figures are published it is clearly explained that they are not reliable forecasts.

“The most important lesson from the 2004 accession is that migration flows, and where migrants chose to live, can be unpredictable. So, rather than making preparations for 2014 based on guesses, Government departments, local authorities and other relevant bodies may do better to develop a plan which allows them to respond rapidly to a range of potential demands and pressures, before following up with longer-term investment where needs are clearly identified in the long term.”

Dr Blinder concluded: “The question that people should be asking policy makers is not ‘how many people will come?’ but ‘how do you plan to deal with the uncertainty about how many people will come?’”


Read the Migration Observatory’s commentary “Romania and Bulgaria: The Accession Guessing Game” here: https://migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/commentary/romania-and-bulgaria-accession-guessing-game

For further information contact: Rob McNeil Senior Media Analyst, The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford.

e: robert.mcneil@compas.ox.ac.uk; Tel: 01865 274568; Mob: 07500 970081

Editors Notes:

About the Migration Observatory

• Based at the ESRC Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford, the Migration Observatory provides independent, authoritative, evidence-based analysis of data on migration and migrants in the UK, to inform media, public and policy debates, and to generate high quality research on international migration and public policy issues. The Observatory’s analysis involves experts from a wide range of disciplines and departments at the University of Oxford.

• The Migration Observatory is funded by: Unbound Philanthropy; the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund and the Barrow Cadbury Trust.

• The Centre on Migration, Policy and Society (COMPAS) at the University of Oxford conducts high quality research in order to develop theory and knowledge, inform policy-making and public debate, and engage users of research within the field of migration. For further details see the COMPAS website: www.compas.ox.ac.uk/.

• COMPAS is core funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) www.esrc.ac.uk/.

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