A representative of the Romanian government has attempted to end fears of an “invasion” of immigrants to the UK after a senior Conservative warned new migrants from Eastern Europe could cause a rise in council tax.
Speaking on the BBC programme The World at One, Philppa Roe, the leader of Westminster City Council, said that local authorities had “no idea” how many people from Bulgaria and Romania would move to Britain after immigration restrictions are lifted on 1 January.
Ms Roe said: “You've only got to wander around Marble Arch at 7.30 in the morning to see the camps” and alleged that the migrants are “sleeping” and “defecating” on people’s front doorsteps.
She said the majority of Romanians and Bulgarians are planning to “work and contribute to society” but “aggressive begging and pickpocketing” have affected “both residents and tourists”.
“We just have no idea how many people are going to come to London and draw on our resources,” she added.
However, a Romanian foreign ministry spokeswoman has said that there will be no such flood of immigrants to the UK.
Brandusa Predescu told the BBC: “We don't have estimates, you don't have estimates. The UK will [not be] and is not the preferred destination of Romanians.”
The UK imposed 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.
An amendment to the Immigration Bill going through Parliament would have extended the transitional arrangements to 2018, but it has not yet been debated by MPs on the eve of freedom of movement coming into force.
According to travel firms, there has not been a need to prepare for a high demand of travellers from the two EU accession countries.
An easyJet spokesman said it had not seen an “increase to our passenger numbers from January 2014” on the routes that would be used, while Blue Air, a low-cost Romanian airline, said it still had seats available after New Year's Day.
Think-tank Migration Watch UK claimed in a report that Britain remained the most lucrative destination in the European Union for migrants.
But Germany is the “most attractive destination” with its low unemployment rate and large number of vacancies.
Meanwhile, members of The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry have said lifting restrictions will help cement the economic recovery as well as fill the gap in the number of skilled workers companies need.
55 per cent of its members believe immigration has had a positive impact on the capital's economy and more than half employ migrant workers.