Britain's new migrants
Sunday 24 April 2005
Immigration is high on the political agenda; last May the Government, controversially, said that workers from eight new member states of the European Union could work here, legally.
Over the period of a year Panorama has filmed the reality of economic migration, following 11 East Europeans who came to the UK seeking work.
For some the going seems easy. Andrzej, a bus driver from Poland, is recruited to drive for a British bus company. Andrzej's boss says he can't find enough British drivers who want to work. He tells Panorama, Poles "are used to work", while in Britain "it's very easy not to work and still make a living."
But for some the going is pretty tough. Wieslaw, "the Professor", came here from Poland in May last year and struggles to get a job. He even resorts to working for no pay at all, just for his accommodation. With no income he sleeps rough, even living for a time in a coal hole under the street.
Panorama shows that many East European migrants who cannot find legal employment are easily absorbed into the black economy, and reveals how some are employed, illegally.
An employment agent speaks candidly about how he does this fraudulently skimming off their tax and national insurance. He claims that 25% of East Europeans here are "working on a basis where they're illegally employed."
The programme clearly demonstrates that the number of East Europeans actually working in the UK is not precisely known, while the political parties are trying to demonstrate that they are capable of "controlling immigration."
Most East European migrants accept low wages - and many work for pay levels, Panorama discovers, that many British workers will not tolerate. Panorama asks whether East European migrants are helping the Government by keeping wages down.
Reporter: Vivian White
Producer: Tristan Quinn
Assistant Producers: Antonia Meszaros, Katy Stead
Researcher: Sebastian Budner
Deputy Editors: Andrew Bell, Frank Simmonds
Editor: Mike Robinson