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MP's call for calm over mass immigration as Bulgarians and Romanians arrive in the UK

Bulgarian and Romanian citizens will now be free to live and work in Britain

The first Bulgarians and Romanians benefiting from unrestricted access to the UK labour market have begun to arrive as politicians move to appease fears that Britain could be flooded with migrants.

Romanians landing at Luton Airport were greeted by Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs select committee, who said the number of arrivals provided just a "snapshot" of those expected to come to the UK in the coming months.

Mr Vaz highlighted that there is no evidence to support claims that eastern European migrants have "rushed out and bought tickets" to the UK as suggested by several media reports earlier this week.

He said: "Just on the conversations we've had with people who have come here, a lot of them are returning people, they already work in Britain and they're coming back after a holiday so they're not people coming here for the first time."

Mr Vaz criticised the Government's refusal to publish or commission estimates of the number of Romanian and Bulgarian migrants expected to enter the UK as restrictions are lifted. He suggested that the lack of information has fuelled "unnecessary" concerns.

Unofficial figures estimate that as many as 50,000 migrants could come to the UK each year. But this has not been officially confirmed. 

The Labour MP for Leicester East added: "The concern of the committee has always been the lack of robust estimates of people coming here and we still feel very strongly the Government ought to have asked the Migration Advisory Committee to have conducted a piece of research which would have told us the number of people who came into this country or were coming into this country.

"We think that would have been extremely helpful. The fact that we don't have those estimates means that we have this kind of drama at the end, which is not helpful to anybody."

His comments come after 90 senior Tories urged Prime Minister David Cameron to keep the borders shut and extend controls on Bulgarian and Romanian migrants.

Philippa Roe, Conservative leader of Westminster City Council, suggested that most eastern Europeans would abuse "our welfare system", "pickpocket", "aggressively beg" and “defecate” on people’s front doorsteps – but failed to provide evidence to back her claims.

A cross-party group of MPs has called for calm and criticised the inflammatory language used by politicians that is stoking up tension against migrants.

Andrew George, a Lib Dem MP who is chairman of the group, told the Guardian: "They already exist in an environment of deep prejudice and community tension anyway.

"This is just setting them back after making some progress in some of the areas in which they have improved their relations. There is collateral damage going on for the wider traveller community."

The European Commission said that it is unlikely that Britain would see a mass influx of eastern Europeans since Bulgarian and Romanian citizens have already been allowed to work without restrictions in 19 EU countries.

Laszlo Ander, the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, said: “It is unlikely that there will be any major increase following the ending of the final restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian workers."

He added that the free movement of people has been one of the "cornerstones of EU integration" that is "most cherished" by Europeans, who are allowed to study, work and study across the union.

The Romanian government has also moved to dispel fears insisting that the UK is "not the preferred destination" for their citizens. Romanian representative Roxana Carare, an Honorary Consul in Britain, added that the number of people entering the country will not change.

Speaking on the BBC, she said: "Britain is not top of the list because this is an Anglo-Saxon country and Romania is a Latin country. People are more likely to go to Italy, Spain and other Latin countries."

Damian Draghici, adviser to the Romanian PM, suggested that the British government should worry about the bankers who are "stealing billions" instead of the Roma begging on the streets for one euro.

The UK imposed the seven-year restrictions on Romania and Bulgaria after they joined the EU in 2007 – only allowing citizens a visa if they were self-employed, had a job offer, or were given a specialist role.