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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 January 2007, 05:29 GMT
Romanians put trust in hard work
By Monica Florescu
BBC Romanian Service

For Romanians hoping to work abroad the country's accession to the European Union opens new opportunities.

Ovidiu Sarpe, 32 Old Bailey
Ovidiu Sarpe is expecting new Romanian clients in London
But Britain is not among the countries which have granted Romanians and Bulgarians the right to work from day one of their accession.

If you want to know what Romanians in Britain think about this, one option is to visit one of the new Romanian restaurants in London.

There is one in Edmonton, and another in Mill Hill, but I went to 32 Old Bailey - a few hundred metres away from the Romanian Church in Fleet Street - where I found a party in full swing.

The owner, Ovidiu Sarpe, is looking forward to 2007.

"We hope many Romanians will come looking for work and will become our clients," he says.

Scapegoats

The tables are full of Romanian dishes, among them the famous sarmale, minced meat in cabbage leaves. And an enticing smell comes from the kitchen, where the main cook is Georgeta Patulea.

Sarmale
Sarmale are cabbage leaves, stuffed with minced meat

A cook for 20 years in Romania, she has been in the UK for one year, and finds the work much easier.

"In Romania you had to give up your rest days, whereas here your rights are scrupulously respected.

"I found it odd in the beginning, when I was told to go home after eight hours. I couldn't believe it," Mrs Patulea confesses.

Her co-worker, from Poland, is just placing some mititei - another Romanian speciality, minced beef and lamb in cylindrical shapes - on the grill.

Back in the restaurant, Claudiu, a customer, is smoking at the bar. After a few months in London he is rather disillusioned.

"Any Romanian who comes to London hopes for the best, but the reality turns out otherwise," he says.

He is disappointed about the stories in the British press that whipped up fears of the country being swamped by Bulgarian and Romanian migrants, and about the government's decision to restrict their freedom to work.

Many Romanians feel they have been made scapegoats for the unexpected influx of foreign workers, mainly Poles, that arrived in the UK after the last wave of EU enlargement in 2004.

Retraining

Claudiu warns Romanians who want to try their luck to think twice.

"If you have no right to work, you can't make money in Britain. Labour on the black market is scarce and is downright dangerous", he says.

For those who are serious, enthusiastic and patient, for those who invest and do not expect a profit the next day, there is no better country than Britain
Ovidiu Sarpe
"My advice to Romanians is: if you come determined to work, do it, but bring some money with you, not just money for a plane ticket and 100 for expenses. With this sort of money you will be forced to return pretty soon."

One of the guests is Maria, a young woman, who came to Britain six years ago and now works as a solicitor.

"As a foreign lawyer it is very hard, because you have to speak English very well, and you have to retrain for the English legal system.

"There are few Romanian lawyers, but there is a growing demand and Romania's accession to the EU will create new opportunities", Maria tells me.

She too is disappointed about the attitude of the British press towards Romanian immigrants. But in the end, she says hard work and the desire to succeed will overcome all of these obstacles.

It is late evening and the Romanian restaurant has become very crowded.

Food has all but vanished from the bar but Mr Sarpe finds some extra sarmale for latecomers.

His advice for would-be migrant workers is the same as Maria's.

"It is hard, but for those who are serious, enthusiastic and patient, for those who invest and do not expect a profit the next day, there is no better country than Britain."


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