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Last Updated: Sunday, 4 December 2005, 21:44 GMT
Britain's new migrants

Wieslaw, a Polish economic migrant
Britain's new migrants
Sunday 24 April 2005
In April 2005, Panorama broadcast "Britain's New Migrants", a film which followed the fortunes of several migrants from the new European Member States, the so-called "A8", who had come to Britain to seek work.

Since the programme was broadcast, the government has published the real figure for immigration from Eastern Europe.

The government insists they are an economic necessity; and the captains of industry agree. Sir Digby Jones of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI):

"I think one of the popular press used the word 'swamped', and I'm sure there are people who, because they read certain types of newspapers, probably open their curtain in the morning and expect 15 Latvians to be camping on the lawn. But at the end of the day, what have we seen in reality [is] these people coming for a better life, actually mopped up by the need for people in our growing economy... we just don't have enough people to do the job."

Jarek has plenty of the latter. He is a master butcher but, when he first arrived, he searched high and low for work, lived in a coal hole and learnt English in his spare time. Eight months on, he has found work in his profession - at a butcher's business in Southampton.

According to his boss, Charles Baynham

"He's a hard worker, he's a good sense of humour, his English is coming on pretty good... He's not the only eastern European guy that works with us. We have five on them in total - an asset to the business. These chaps want to work, a lot of local staff, a lot of the English guys have got a different approach to the job. It's very difficult to find skilled guys."

But butchery isn't the only job that Jarek is doing: he also does two cleaning jobs;

"The butcher factory is very, very busy, maybe working ten, eleven, twelve hours every day, and four hours more with cleaning. I sleep three or four hours every night, every morning, because I come back home at two o'clock, three o'clock in the morning and go to my job at six o'clock. It is normal."

And there is a very good reason for all this hard work: his son, who has come over to join him and has an expensive past time, ice hockey. As Jarek told Panorama

"It's very expensive because I must pay people more for his accommodation... Every month it is £55 pays ice, his trainer, his ice £55. I must buy his new skates, new helmet, new everything. Yeah, to start my son here is maybe £1,500. Yeah, it's very, very expensive."

'Not everyone is as lucky'

Jarek's companion in the coal hole in London hasn't been as fortunate, Failing to find work, Wieslaw, "The Professor", ended up living rough on the streets.

Five months on, he has a roof over his head, thanks to Mother Teresa, more specifically a shelter run by nuns from her order. But his health has deteriorated.

"Oh since spring, well, I got a heart attack first of all and I didn't even recognise it was a heart attack. It just felt a very strong pain in my hands... it was quite painful. Secondly, it was hard to breathe and my heart started to beat stronger and I had pain chest.. it was a chest pain, so it was quite a strong one."

"I was sure that I would come here and I would get a job, but in my plans a heart attack wasn't there."

Unable to work after his heart attack, Wieslav has been getting benefit of up to £60 a week.

"I get some short money from the benefits, it is sort of sickness benefit, just because I was in the hospital, that's why I get some short benefits, but it's just a temporary source of benefit."

He does not see returning to Poland as an option at present:

"In Poland actually I have a certain situation that I'm too old to work, but too young to get an old age pension so, in my case, I'm in between. I'd prefer to be employed somewhere and actually at this moment during the changes, it's not in Poland. I can't say that it's quite impossible, especially at the age that I am, but they rather prefer younger people, more educated."

The Home Office say the new migrants from Eastern Europe make very few demands on the welfare system. They and employers insist the benefit to Britain outweighs the cost.

The hidden costs

When Monica and Ewelina arrived in Britain from Poland, they found jobs in a café at Stanstead before they'd even left the airport.

"The main reason was to raise money for our studies, because we ran out of money and we have to pay for our education; and we wanted some adventure because we are still young."

"Tuition fees, £1200 a year but we already to applied to the EU for a scholarship so if we get it it's very good for us. If not, we will have to pay fees on our own but we've saved enough money during this whole year as we've been working so we don't have to worry about it anymore."

According to Sarah Fitt of the Anglia Ruskin University

"Over the last 2 or 3 years, we've noticed a huge increase in Polish students and Hungarian students coming over to study."

"The accession to the European Union has made a huge difference from the point of view of costs and funding for the students, because before they would have had to have paid full international student fees which would have made coming and studying here very difficult. Whereas now, of course, they pay the fees of the normal British home students."

Some estimates suggest that if the current increase in immigration is maintained over the next 30 years a city the size of Portsmouth will need to be built every year.

The jury is still out on the overall benefits and costs of "managed migration."

Panorama's "What Happened Next?" is broadcast on Sunday 4 December at 22:15 GMT on BBC One and online at


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