Panorama: Britain's new migrants
BBC One, Sunday, 24 April 2005 at 22:20 BST
For the last year Panorama has been following the lives of a diverse group of economic migrants as they try to establish themselves in Britain.
The programme, entitled "Britain's New Migrants", focuses on the new economic migrants from Eastern Europe who have the right to work here legally. They come from the "A8 countries" - eight of the ten states that joined the European Union in May 2004. They are former Soviet Bloc countries, where wages are around 40% of the European average.
According to producer Tristan Quinn
We wanted to look at the reality of economic migration to the UK and explore some common perceptions. There's this idea, for example, that migrants do the jobs we won't do. We wanted to see if that was really the case and, if so, to what degree British employers rely on their labour.
In order to work here legally these migrants must register with the Home Office within 30 days of starting employment. The A8 economic migrants now form a significant new group of migrants affecting the UK labour market.
The programme features migrants ranging from doctors and bus drivers to coffee shop assistants and those struggling to find work legally. It explores some of the problems that anyone moving to a new country might face: finding somewhere to live, finding a job and getting registered to work legally.
At one end of the scale is "Andy" a bus driver from Poland who has successfully settled into his new life in Nottingham. After six months here he has been joined by his wife. He has a flat and a car and a steady job which pays nearly four times what he was paid in his homeland. In his move from Warsaw he was supported by his employer, who provided accommodation and helped to arrange the necessary paperwork.
At the other extreme is Wieslaw, "The Professor", a Polish man who, despite speaking English fluently thanks to growing up in Australia, found himself homeless and sleeping on the streets of London. For a few days he even found himself working for nothing more than accommodation. Later he worked as a vegetable packer in Lincolnshire, where he was part of the "black economy" for a few weeks. He is now sleeping rough again and still searching for work.
Wieslaw has struggled to find work since arriving from Poland
Assistant Producer Antonia Mezaros, filmed the eleven migrants:
While filming we tried to keep in the background as much as possible, as we didn't want the presence of the cameras to influence outcomes such as whether people got jobs.
The programme reveals that the precise numbers of East European economic migrants in Britain is not known and that many are working for low wages.
Panorama's Britain's New Migrants was broadcast on BBC One on Sunday 24 April 2005 at 22:20 BST