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BBC OnePanorama


Last Updated: Sunday, 24 April 2005, 22:24 GMT 23:24 UK
Programme transcript
Below is a transcript for Panorama: Britain's New Migrants, broadcast Sunday, 24 April 2005, on BBC One, 22:20 BST.

Title music

COMM: Poland, early morning, October 2004. A group of men are gathering; ready to come to Britain. Last May their country joined the European Union: now they have the right to work here.

Andrzej Rybitwa: I'm happy that I am leaving to work, work normally for normal money. COMM A British bus company has come to Warsaw, to get drivers to work in Nottingham.

COMM: The bus company's manager comes from South Africa

Paul van Staden (Regional Operations Director, Dunn Line.) : We just want people who wants to work, that's the main thing and who's proud of their job as a bus driver.

COMM: Over the last year we've been following what's happened to 11 migrants from the new member countries of the EU who've come here from Eastern Europe, seeking work.

These men have jobs waiting for them.

But this is the reality for some migrants from the new Europe: Subsisting in a coal hole in Victoria, in the centre of London. This man came from Poland too, where he was unemployed, to seek a future here.

Wieslaw Branski: It's quite wet inside, but even a little wet is better than the wind of course. We have a candle, so its quite warm from the candle.

COMM: He doesn't appear on the Government's figures. But he has worked - in the "black" economy - employed, illegally, by this man.

"Employment Agent": I would estimate that East Europeans 25% of them, in a situation where they're working on a basis where they're illegally employed.

COMM This has been the big, new, legal, migration to Britain - the men and women who've come from 8 poor countries of Eastern Europe, now part of the EU, to seek work - in numbers bigger than anyone predicted. This is an immigration reality check: The true story of Britain's new migrants.

Title: Britain's New Migrants

"Employment Agent": You can just meet them as they come off the bus. You can recognise them because of their dress, the way they are, the baggage, the bus they come on.

COMM: Victoria Coach station in London: The gateway to Britain for many Eastern European economic migrants. Some already have jobs and destinations to go to. But others arrive, with high hopes and low funds, and no clear plans. And there are spotters, ready to exploit them.

"Employment Agent": Some of the generations of people are quite surprising that come in. You see some late middle-aged men coming in, some late middle-aged women. You can see they haven't got a lot of money, that they have come in and you wonder why they are here. You know, these people must be extremely desperate.

COMM: The last year for which full migration figures are known is 2003, the year before the EU was enlarged: 407,000 non-British citizens arrived, to live in the UK for at least a year. So did 106,000 British citizens. 171,000 non-British citizens left the UK to live elsewhere. So did 191,000 British citizens. So the UK population was added to, through migration, by 151,000.

Now a new migration is underway, which was controversial even before it began. A year ago, eight states from Eastern Europe were about to join the EU. The fear was that workers from these countries, where wages were far lower, would flood in to Britain, take away jobs, and overwhelm public services.

We've followed through the migration to Britain that began so controversially a year ago. This is the story, literally, in this case, on the ground.

Wieslaw Branski: I always wanted to be in London but as a tourist not as a homeless person.

COMM: Wieslaw Branski, aged 55, came here immediately after his country joined the European Union, in May. But soon he has no money left and no job. He has to resort to sleeping rough.

Wieslaw Branski: I thought that in about two or three days I would find myself a job, and... but I just didn't, I failed.

COMM: But he's been here for three months now.

Wieslaw Branski: In the meanwhile good night.

COMM: Piotr and Ela, are a married couple from Poland. They were psychiatric nurses there. It's June, and they've found work here, but at a much lower level of skill: as care assistants.

A Polish recruitment agent in London has helped them get the jobs, at a private independent hospital for psychiatric patients, in Berkshire. Their employer is providing accommodation at another care home. Piotr and Ela have been sleeping rough as well.

Woman: You just come up, and he'll bring them up.

Piotr: A bed, a bed, very nice. Lovely, lovely.

Ela: Very, very nice.

Woman: And a little present from us...

Piotr: Thanks, thanks very much.

COMM: Care homes, nationally, face serious labour shortages. Many companies rely heavily on migrant workers. Piotr and Ela's manager is Nigerian.

Manager: It's the United Nation home. I call it United Nation home because there is so many people from all over the world in that place - patients and staff.

I know what it is like when I first came here Piotr: Not cry.

Manager: Please don't. The time will come when you feel at home here and are at home in this country. I feel very much at home in this country.Welcome.

Piotr: Very very thanks.

COMM: Piotr and Ela are relieved - and so is the care home. Across the UK, nearly two and half thousand people from the new EU countries registered as care workers last year. 73 million people from 8 countries became new citizens of the EU last May. They were refused the right to work in most member states. But the British Government argued that they'd benefit the UK economy:

Tony Blair speech to CBI 27th April 2004: We face a clear choice: use the opportunities of accession to help fill those gaps with legal migrants able to pay taxes and pay their way, or deny ourselves that chance, hold our economy back and in all likelihood see a significant increase in illegal working and the black economy.

COMM: The Government said this was a policy of controlled migration. The Conservatives opposed these new migrants having the right to work here. They say immigration including economic migration needs to be cut.

Michael Howard speech to CBI 1st March 2005: Immigration has to be controlled. Scale matters because while immigration adds to the economy it also adds to our population. This has consequences for public services and for community relations.

COMM: Crawley, in Surrey. It's well known that the NHS couldn't function without migrants. Szabolcs Szoke a doctor from Hungary.

Szabolcs Szoke: I'm Doctor Szoke.

Man: How d'you do.

COMM: Before his country joined the EU, he was a senior public health official running all the medical services for nearly 40,000 people near Budapest. Then he was recruited, in Hungary, by a British agency - to fill a vacancy in the NHS that even quite junior British doctors didn't apply for. He's working late and night shifts as a resident medical officer an RMO in a hospital in charge of 120 patients in 6 wards.

Dr Szabolcs Szoke: Take a deep breath please

The head hunter agency who kind of got us this job told us this is the ticket to the NHS, this is a kind of entry level job for us. The job description is not like an entry level job. Definitely the responsibility is more than that.

"Hello this is Bob you just paged me."

Dr Valerie Newman Surrey & Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust : It was quite difficult to recruit to -we put out a UK advert and had no response at all. So we then went to European doctors locum agency and they were able to provide doctors who and - fortunately last May with the new accession states coming in to the EEC and the greatly improved situation about work permits we were able to look to that market.

Dr. Szabolcs Szoke: She had a chest x-ray ¿. OK?

Dr Valerie Newman Surrey & Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust: We do have these new European countries whose medical education is very good and the doctors want to come and work in our country which is great for them and great for us

COMM: Four months on Dr Szoke makes a cooler assessment.

Dr. Szabolcs Szoke: Why are we here? Because no English doctor wants to be an RMO. Why not? Because there is no career advancement. It's a one way street.

COMM: Dr Szoke has paid £50 to register with the Home Office. The Government introduced this requirement the week before the new member countries joined the EU. It decided their citizens must be registered and work for a year before they would be entitled to social security benefits. Dr Szoke has done everything by the book.

Dr. Szabolcs Szoke: She must know. Sometimes they do know better, than we do.

COMM: Dr Szoke's salary at the hospital, £42,000 a year - was over three times as much as he was paid in Hungary. He did the job for 6 months, and then he left for a better paid job, in Britain. But the Hospital wasn't worried. There were more Eastern Europeans waiting.

Dr Valerie Newman, Surrey &Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust: I don't anticipate too much difficulty - in fact I have got a doctor from Poland to ring who is currently working in this country and is interested in this post.

COMM: Most of the migrants to Britain from the new Eastern European members of the EU have taken unskilled jobs: Over I30 000 workers applied to go on the Home Office register in the first 8 months of the scheme. No one knows whether the migration will continue at this rate or how many will stay. The figure is a snapshot.

Reporter: 130,000 is larger than the predictions. Do you have any limit in mind or is there no upper limit?

Des Browne, Labour Immigration Minister : There is of course a limit in migration in every sense in terms of labour markets. And that limit is what is in the best interests of the United Kingdom. But that limit is not a figure.

Reporter: Simple questions - Do you think 130,000 is too many?

David Davis, Conservative Shadow Home Secretary: Well it's much more of than the estimate. Yes I do think it is... it's probably too many.

Mark Oaten, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs : Certainly most of the predictions were for a much lower figure, but it does seem that the enthusiasm for being able to take the advantage of this free movement in Europe took off. Now I don't believe it's possible for that level to be sustained over the next two or three years, that level will come down.

COMM: It's October: Wieslaw hasn't got a job, yet, but after sleeping rough on the streets of London he has got a nasty cough.

Doctor: Hello, come in, take a seat. So you're still sleeping rough? What are your plans? Are you going to stay here all winter?

Wieslaw Branski: My plans are to get a job, sir, as quick as possible of course. And to get off the streets - this is the most important thing for me.

Doctor: Right ok can I just have a listen to your chest.

COMM: Wieslaw can't claim welfare benefits until he's been in legal work for a year. But does have the right to use the NHS.

Doctor: OK sounds a bit wheezy down there.

Wieslaw Branski: Thank you very much sir , very nice to meet you again.

Doctor: Good luck with your search for a job.

Wieslaw Branski: Thank you sir.

COMM: And, armed with his prescription, he's off to the pharmacy.

Wieslaw Branksi: If you'd be so kind sir.

Pharmacist: That's your... take about 5 minutes

COMM: He's already found that he can get free prescriptions.

Wieslaw Branski: So it's a really good help for East Europeans because many of them are homeless but some of them work, so those that work they can buy themselves some medicine but of course for those that are homeless and are foreigners it is a wonderful thing.

David Davis, Conservative Shadow Home Secretary : The individuals themselves are, some are, doing what most people would do, given the opportunity, of going to get a better life for themselves.

Reporter: Do you think they're good or bad for the British economy?

David Davis: Well on balance, there's no doubt they will bring something to the economy. How high value that is, is arguable. If it's low skill it will be low value, there'll be low tax payment and so on, and that's got to be offset against the pressures on housing and public services, and I suspect that for people who are on low skills and low tax payments that the balance of the economy is not positive.

COMM: One particular group of prospective migrants attracted especially fearful attention a year ago. Gypsies. Eastern Hungary, Summer 2004

Aniko Bango: We don't want to be a refugee - we don't want to have no welfare or how do you say it. We just gonna, we just want to work and live our life there, if we could.

COMM: The Bango family are Hungarian gypsies. They say that they are victims of racial prejudice. They and their families sought asylum in Canada but failed. In the UK the total numbers applying for asylum are falling sharply. Now the Bangos can come here as of right.

Laszlo Bango: The part I care about is working, being treated as a human being. That my family is treated as human beings. That people don't look down on us for being gypsies.

Aniko Bango: I don't really want much, like a Porsche or something, I don't really want that, because I know I will never get it. I just want a little house, have a good life, have a job, that's all I want.

COMM: In the Autumn the Bangos come to Britain on a cheap flight - to Stansted Airport near London. They're now economic migrants. For two other job seekers from Eastern Europe, Stansted itself is as far as they have to go. Evelina and Monika - students from Poland - got an interview before they'd even left the airport - and they were hired - by Costa Coffee.

Evelina Kabat: The main reason was to earn money to be able to continue our studies because we ran out of money and we have to pay for our education and apart from that we wanted some adventure because we are so young and we thought that was the best time to do something crazy.

Monika Ostojak: And besides to practise our English.

We would like to stay Polish in Britain - we wouldn't like to become British - and give them a bit of our culture maybe.

Evelina Kabat: And take some of their culture - exchange it - yes.

COMM: But the Hungarian gypsy couple, the Bangos, don't walk into a job in the airport: they take a cheap coach to Stratford in East London, and start their search there. They've left their 2 year old son behind with the rest of the family in Hungary. They have just £290 with them. Day one: and their first priority is to find a place to live.

Aniko Bango: Hello? My name is Aniko, I'm looking for a bedroom, just a room to rent.

Hi my name is Aniko, we're looking for a bedroom for rent.

Hello ¿ hello hi, my name is Aniko, we're looking for a bedroom for rent.

COMM: They have little idea of how expensive London is, and not enough money for a deposit. Aniko Bango: Hi my name is Aniko, we're looking for a room for rent.

It's taken? OK, thank you, bye.

It's gone. Ok, thank you, bye

COMM: They can't find anywhere. Next, in a local café,- they hit the 'phones looking for work, with the same determination.

Aniko Bango: Hi, my name is Aniko, I'm looking for a job here.

Hi my name is Aniko, I'm looking for this cleaning job, I'm calling about that actually.

It says care worker.

Laszlo Bango: Hi sir, my name is Laszlo, I'm looking for job ¿ oh, it's gone, oh¿ thank you very much. Bye. Aniko Bango: OK, thank you.

Thank you bye.

COMM: It's been a hard day; and Aniko is 3 months pregnant with her second child

Aniko Bango: I'm going to cry.

Laszlo Bango: No need to get depressed, we've just arrived in the country. No need to get depressed.

COMM: They haven't achieved much. They spend their first night here sleeping on night busses and on the street.

In Victoria, near the coach station, another East European seeking work, Jarek Knapp, a Czech, has found a refuge of sorts. He's living in a coal hole below the entrance to a smart house in Belgravia; he's sharing with Wieslaw from Poland. Local charities are giving them food.

Jarek Knapp: You know it's the evening, you've walked many kilometres and tried so hard to get work and get by somehow. But if you don't, you are worn out and especially when you have to come back to conditions like this, you see, it's very, very hard.

COMM: Wieslaw has one advantage in the job market. The other East Europeans he's met here, looking for work, call him "professor," because he already speaks good English. But Jarek's determined to learn - and discovers a free language class - where trainee teachers of English enjoy practising their skills on him

Teacher: It's raining cats and dogs, a very British expression.

Jarek: It's raining cats and dogs.

Teacher: Very good

Teacher: My bag is very heavy.

Class: Can I help you.

Teacher: Shall I help you? Shall I help you?

COMM: Speaking English is no guarantee of getting work. But coming here and not being able to speak it is a real disadvantage. The language barrier holds back another migrant when he tries to get official help. Zoltan Majlath is from Hungary seeking work in London.

Zoltan Majlath: No speak English

COMM: Under the Government's rules jobseekers from the new Eastern European states are allowed to use the self help computer services in Job Centres, but they aren't entitled to face-to-face help. We observed what was happening, and then secretly filmed with Zoltan as he went to series of Job Centres.

Job Centre Assistant : Do you speak any English? No English - a little bit. It's terrible but this is what they have done now - if you are not on benefits you have to help yourself.

COMM: But under the Government's rules Zoltan isn't entitled to benefit unless he's already been in registered work for a year.

Job Centre Assistant: Because you speak little English it's going to be difficult. What you're supposed to do is telephone them, but you're not going to understand what they are saying. Best thing to do is look in the paper - newspaper - and find a job where they can speak the same language as you.

COMM: At another job centre Zoltan asks if he can have an interpreter to help him and says that it doesn't have to be someone who speaks Hungarian, he can manage Italian and German as well.

Zoltan Majlath: Germany, Italy.

COMM: But he gets the same answer: the policy is that he can't get personal help to find work until he's been in work for a year.

Job Centre Assistant: We don't have that service for people looking for a job. We only have that service if you are claiming benefit. If you're not claiming benefits we don't have the interpreter service.

COMM: The Government's policy is that the new migrants should be self sufficient. Zoltan draws his own conclusion.

Zoltan Majlath: I might have to go and look for black market work.

Reporter: The rule is that if you come from one of these new countries they tell you can't get face to face help unless you're on benefit. But you can't be on benefit unless you've worked for a year, so it's catch 22 for them.

Des Browne, Labour Immigration Minister: We made no bones about what we were doing when we opened our labour markets to these EU accession country nationals we, through our posts abroad, have worked with governments in every one of these eight countries to ensure that people who may be thinking of coming to the United Kingdom to work, know and understand what our scheme is.

COMM: Cardiff, in the small hours of the morning. Jarek is waiting for a connection, making a 200-mile journey from London to go to a job interview in mid Wales. He has used the Job Centre's computer system - with translation help from his friend. Jarek used to be a butcher, and there's a vacancy in a slaughterhouse. He has paid his own fare.

Jarek Knapp: It's about £35, but risks? It's a big, big risk when you have no work. I will spend money on something, if I think it could make things better.

COMM: Jarek has staked his money, and his emotions, on getting this job.

Jarek Knapp: This is a diploma which shows that I am a trained butcher. My daughter... my son. In my hands I am holding all my most treasured things that I have with me in England.

COMM: Jarek doesn't get the job.

Suffolk. There are lots of unconventional alternatives to the official, paid, job market for migrants. "The professor" goes to work as a labourer on a farm - he gets accommodation, but no pay.

The farmer who employs him has put an advert in a magazine aimed at Australians travelling abroad.

Nick Fisher: We were looking for workers and local people seemed to be doing other things so we put an advert in the TNT magazine in London. And we had about 50 people reply / and out of this 50 odd people there were only 3 Australasians who replied to the advert and all the rest were East Europeans.

COMM: And the "professor" rang and said he could start the very next day.

Wieslaw Branski: I did not agree with any money you know.

Reporter: You never asked?

Wieslaw Branski: No, because it wasn't the point. The point was to get out from under the ground for a couple of days at least, to have fresh air.

Nick Fisher: He is only on a week's trial at the moment, but he will get his train fare and his accommodation and food and so on. And if we take him on then he will be on about £6 an hour as a labourer.

COMM: The accommodation is a caravan. The professor tries doing the job for several days... but it doesn't work out. He is given his train fare and returns to London. Across the capital there are known streets that operate as unofficial job centres, and attract East Europeans. In West London, men are drawn by the job adverts in a newsagent's window. Some wait there to be approached by people offering work, who pull up in cars. Face to face negotiations take place - about how many workers are needed and how much the employer will pay. Usually the work on offer is casual: those who are chosen are hired for the day, and typically paid in cash.

Knowing that we're filming him, Zoltan shows us another street in North London where you can get work. For a couple of months he heads off at dawn every day to Cricklewood. He's had no help in official Government job centres.

Zoltan Majlath: For those that get work this is paradise. For those that work. You can get by here, absolutely you can, even in this casual labour market, if you're not too lazy to get up at five am and come out here you can be earning quite nicely.

COMM: But even in this casual labour market Zoltan is selective about who he'll work for. He dislikes accepting work from non-whites.

Zoltan Majlath: They want an Indian, a warrior. But we don't like these negroes and the like either, anyway. We don't go with them.

What need to do - ah bricks

I don't trust these Indian mixtures or blacks, Irish gypsies... I can spot those a mile off, as well, I don't go with them either. If I see their hand has freckles or their hair is red, then that's it.

COMM: But despite the limitations he himself imposes he still gets some building work in North London. He's paid about £40 a day, for work like this- far higher than the wages he would get in Hungary.

Zoltan Majlath: If it pays so much better maybe we should carry on and get legal work only later. From legal they take tax and all sorts of things and you might only get £30 or £25 at the end of the day.

COMM: While he's doing this unregistered, casual work Zoltan isn't counted on the official figures for economic migration at all.

Mark Oaten, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs: We must try and get them into the system, being paid a decent wage, taking part in our culture and country, not hiding from it.

COMM: Andrzej Rybitwa, and the other Polish bus drivers are here in Britain now. They've been bussed from Warsaw to Nottingham by Dunn Line, the British company which recruited them. They are registered with the Home Office; their accommodation has been arranged; and now he and the others are learning the gentle arts of being a British bus driver.

Andrzej Rybitwa: Ticket.

Man: Thank you sir.

Andrzej Rybitwa: Moment, moment, your change.

Man: Aah! Thank you.

Andrzej Rybitwa : After the first three months, which are the trial months, we can stay here or leave. If we stay we can get six weeks unpaid leave and three weeks paid leave. Practically every other month we can go to Poland without a problem.

Paul van Staden, Regional Operations Director, Dunn Line: Those people are used to work because they had to. There's no other way for them and in England it's just the opposite, it's very easy not to work and still make a living and still can go to the pub every night.

COMM: The company say they've tried to get British drivers - they advertised in local papers for three months, they hired four people, but two of them didn't show up for work...

Paul van Staden, Regional Operations Director, Dunn Line: I just think it's the case that they don't want to work, or they don't want to do the job and may be it's easier to go and live from the Government I think they call it the "dole" system here.

COMM: Fast forward six months to the day the election is declared: we're on Andrzej's bus. He knows the streets of Nottingham now almost as well as he used to know the streets of Warsaw. Everyone we speak to on the bus tells us immigration is an issue for them, and they have serious concerns about it.

Woman: I think we've got far too many people in this country, I don't think there should be any more allowed in whatsoever.

Man: Half of them don't come to work and are living on the bloody dole. Reporter: If I was to tell you that the driver on this bus...

Woman: Yes I know I noticed.

Reporter: Do you know that the bus driver on your bus is an economic migrant from Poland; he's come here to work?

Woman: Yes, I do

Reporter: So do you count him among those you would prefer not to have here?

Woman: Yes, certainly.

Woman: Well I've heard stories that they don't know where they're going and everything.

Woman: I don't think they should be allowed into this country unless they do come over here to work. I mean there's people trying to get jobs that these foreigners come in take the jobs that us British people could be doing.

Reporter: He's from Poland.

Woman: Yes

Reporter: He's come as an economic migrant to get work here.

Woman: Yeah, but what about all the English and British and that, that can't get work.

COMM: But Andrzej is happy with the deal he's got. He's paid £6.25 a hour, and more for evening work. He earns nearly four times as much as he used to earn, in Poland.

But Dunn Line, we discovered, are paying all their drivers less than their competitors, the other three bus companies in Nottingham.

Paul van Staden, Regional Operations Director, Dunn Line: I would say we are 5 % less than other companies...

Reporter: You'd say you are paying less but you'd say it's about 5 % less.

Paul van Staden: Yes I would say it's about 5%.

COMM: Dunn Line is a British company. Now 36 men, nearly a third of its workers in Nottingham, are from Poland.

Reporter: If you hadn't got these drivers where would your company now be placed?

Paul van Staden: It would have been difficult because you would have to take out 36 to 40 drivers per day from the company, so the last couple of - 6 months, I would say we've replaced the bad ones with the good ones, which is the Polish.

COMM: Dunn Line's Polish migrants have made it easier for them to keep their costs down. And other employers have hired migrants too and enjoyed similar benefits, leading the Governor of the Bank of England to suggest that nationally Britain's new migrants may helping to hold down wage levels, and inflation, and interest rates.

Mervyn King, Governor Bank of England, Treasury Select Committee, Thursday, 24 March 2005

I think if you look at the figures on the number of applicants to the Government scheme for workers coming from Eastern Europe, that was 130,000 in the last eight months of last year, that's an annual rate of almost 200,000, these are not trivial numbers, and it may be enough to, at least temporarily, have eased some of the wage pressure.

COMM: And many are accepting low paid jobs. Government figures show that 80% of those on the Worker Registration Scheme were earning between the minimum wage and £5.99 an hour. In the rest of the working population the proportion earning wages as low as this was 11%.

Des Browne, Labour Immigration Minister: We have an obligation as a government to operate our labour markets in the way that serves the best interests of the British economy. The accession states and their workers were a great opportunity for the United Kingdom but they were an opportunity which was of benefit to those accession countries too and to their workforce. We have both benefited from this and those people have come in and done work that the indigenous labour market was unable to cater for or unwilling to do.

David Davis, Conservative Shadow Home Secretary: They're clearly a pool of cheap labour, that is undeniable, and obviously if they come to the United Kingdom they'll be taking jobs which otherwise might be available to people who are currently economically inactive - to use the euphemism for it - and the two million people who the government want to get off welfare into work.

Reporter : This is a cheap labour policy in effect, isn't it?

Mark Oaten, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs: And that, if it emerges to be the long-term pattern, will be of concern because nobody wants anybody, within any country in Europe, to end up being a cheap labour force.

COMM: At Harts Leap, the private care home for psychiatric patients, it's the second day for Piotr and Ela, from Poland, who've been hired as care assistants.

Piotr: Lovely, lovely

Manager: So we use this one to lift manually

COMM: They're shown around - and what they see clearly impresses them. But because they will be working with vulnerable patients there are procedures that have to be gone through, first.

Manager: CRB is the criminal record bureau, for the police.

Piotr: OK. Understand. Check you.

Manager: Yes, I have got the form here.

COMM: The law insists on a formal check in case they have a criminal record.

Manager: That's for you. Not yet.

Piotr: Not yet.

Manager: Just putting it in so I don't forget.

Piotr & Ela: OK.

Manager: This is Elizabeth and this is Peter they are new staff.

Man: New staff... When are they starting?

Manager: Today.

Man: Oh right ok

Manager: That's Jim.

Man: All the best.

COMM: They started work straightaway. And they were in direct contact with patients, for 4 months, before Harts Leap applied to the CRB to check if they had any criminal record. The company told us that they obtained police checks in Poland instead, but they put Piotr and Ela to work without waiting for this process to be completed, contrary to the regulations.

The company made another error, which kept Piotr and Ela off the official statistics. Their manager told them they didn't need to register with the Home Office. So they didn't build up the right to benefit - and the Government didn't count them on its Worker Registration Scheme.

David Davis, Conservative, Shadow Home Secretary: It's almost a voluntary scheme. I mean it isn't supposed to be but it almost amounts to a voluntary scheme. and as a result it's nothing more, frankly, than an elastoplast, a Band-Aid over a very serious, self-inflicted wound.

Des Browne, Labour, Immigration Minister: What we did say was, that the workers registration scheme would generate an incentive for people to register and to work legally and pay tax and National Insurance, and the evidence overwhelmingly indicates that large numbers of people have done so - 130,000 at the last count. Now what other evidence do people want that it has worked?

COMM: The exact effect that Britain's new migrants will have on the size of the population is unknown. Nearly a quarter of the 130,000 who applied to go on the Worker Registration Scheme said they were already in the UK before their countries joined the EU. It's likely that many of them were working illegally. No one knows how many of the total have already left or how many will stay.

Reporter: All we know on the figures is that they've registered for a job here. Do you think they're going to stay? Is that what you object to?

David Davis, Conservatives Shadow Home Secretary: No, that is not the objection, I imagine most of them will stay. After all, we have a situation where the income, the average income in their home countries is very, very, much lower than what they would earn here under most circumstances. So I would expect them to stay for a significant period of time. The problem is the sheer number because it's the number that leads to pressure on housing, public services and the like, that's the problem.

COMM: Aniko and Lazslo Bango the gypsy couple from Hungary, have benefited from multicultural Britain. After spending several nights sleeping on the streets, they have got work - delivering leaflets for a pizza business run by a fellow immigrant, Safi, who's from Afghanistan, and was granted asylum here.

Safi: I've been through these sort of problems myself so when I saw them and they're telling me these sort of things, you know, my past came in front of me and I said no.

Laszlo Bango: Going in the store and the Muslim guys, Afghanistan guys he see in my eyes and in my wife eyes he see that we want to work and that we come from the street. After the guys say OK no problem - you work for me and we give you house.

Aniko Bango: They care about us because they see that in our eyes that we are tired we come from the street and they don't even know.

COMM: Safi pays them £10 each for two hours work a day. Aniko and Lazslo live in a house which they share with a Russian. Safi arranged this - through a friend.

Safi: I said all right I'm sending a couple for you - let them stay there don't charge them rent or anything for week or two week or three week, because they're in terribly bad conditions.

COMM: The Hungarian gypsies are paid in cash; they aren't registered with the Home Office. Safi, a Muslim, sees his temporary assistance as a religious obligation.

Safi: I've been to the Islamic school and / they have taught us if you help somebody and then tomorrow you will be helped and they have a saying what goes around comes around... so if I help somebody tomorrow I might get stuck so somebody will help me.

COMM: October. Harts Leap. Piotr and Ela who have been experienced psychiatric nurses in Poland tell us of their concern about a young female patient whom they consider potentially dangerous.

Ela Gromek: That girl does not know what to do with herself, she then breaks windows, wants to drink alcohol.

COMM: Less than a week later, on November the third this young woman attacked a 62 year old fellow patient, Yvonne Newell, who died shortly afterwards.

Ela Gromek: There was a panic. There was screaming; staff were screaming maybe patients were screaming, everyone was running along the corridor.

I saw the patient, Yvonne, being wheeled out of the ward on a stretcher. She was blue. Soon after, but I only knew officially the next day, the patient who was taken away, Yvonne, was dead.

COMM: An inquest concluded that Yvonne Newell died from a pre-existing medical condition but that her death was probably accelerated by a short time by the assault. Three months later Piotr and Ela left the home.

December: At a desirable London address there are some new occupants. Wieslaw, "the professor," and his Czech friend Jarek are squatting in an empty house.

Wieslaw Branski: We are doing our best not to be noticed, but we can say one thing that it is a really beautiful place, compared to the place where we were before, and we're a little closer to the civilised world, so let's go up and have a look at how it looks upstairs.

COMM: It's certainly a step up from living beneath the streets.

Wieslaw Branski: So as you can see this room is quite comfortable, very nice, old style, it needs, of course, some renewing but we don't care about it because we are not the owners here. But we can say it's really comfortable and very nice.

COMM: Which leaves the question everyone wants answered - how much would it cost to buy?

Wieslaw Branski: I think about two and half million maybe three million because it's very close to the centre so it's a very expensive place.

COMM: Eventually, reality intervenes.

Police Officer: You are not going back in those premises because you will be trespassers, they are the lawful occupiers, they are the owners of that premises or the agents of the owner, in fact they are family members of the owner, they don't want you in there.

COMM: A representative of the owner has turned up, and re-taken possession, and put the things belonging to the squatters on the pavement. The police are then called and it takes a half a dozen officers a couple of hours to make it plain to the migrants that the squat really is over.

Police Officer: That is the end of the story. We are bringing this to a conclusion and you are going to go now.

Wieslaw Branski: Yes sir.

COMM: So as Christmas approaches the Professor and Jarek are jobless, and homeless, again.

A year ago the Government said that allowing Eastern Europeans migrants to come here, and register for work, legally, would cut illegal employment.

Tony Blair speech to CBI 27th April 2004: Now is the time to make the argument for controlled migration simultaneous with tackling the abuses we can identify.

COMM: The Professor says if he had wanted to work illegally he would have come to Britain sooner.

Wieslaw Branski: If I wanted to work un legal, on the black market I would have arrived here about 20 years ago, but I didn't want that, that is why as soon as the door was open I arrived.

COMM: Later in December, the Professor, and Jarek do get work. The spotter, an employment agent who has been in Victoria looking out for newly arrived East Europeans, has something for them.

Jarek Knapp: He simply came to Victoria offering work, don't know where from, he simply knew that jobless people hang around there and look for work, so he came and asked who wants work, and straight away we talked to him like we do with everyone who offers work at Victoria, straight away we talked about wages, how, what and where.

"Employment Agent": There was a demand from a vegetable packing company for people really almost instantaneously. So I went together with a friend of mine down to Victoria to try and find some people. We needed a few people, then I got more phone calls and we needed more people.

COMM: Jarek and the Professor - along with around ten other migrants - go to Boston in Lincolnshire. The work is packing broccoli, sprouts and cabbage.

The men are packing for a legitimate company supplying supermarkets - providing choice, at the lowest possible cost. The orders fluctuate enormously, and the men are only hired as required - usually by text messages on their mobiles. But their employer is the spotter, and at first the men think they are employed legally.

Jarek Knapp: It all looked like it was definitely legal, but after a week when you looked into it more, we realised there was no payslip, many other things that should have been there for legal work, for example he wasn't interested if we had an Insurance number.

COMM: And that is the point. This employment agent is carrying out a fraud. The packing company is paying the money for the men's tax and national insurance, but unknown to the company, it isn't going to the Government. It's being skimmed off by the agent.

"Employment Agent": I think everybody benefits apart from the government and that's why the government don't like it.

You can make £1,000 in a week if you've got enough business.

If you get caught you get caught but it's... it's something that's probably that's all part of the normal business risk to a certain extent.

COMM: While the work lasts, for a few weeks, the men are paid £5.15 an hour for the daytime shifts, and £7.72 for nights and Sundays, minus the agent's deductions. They defend their decision to go along with his fraud.

Jarek Knapp: You see, even I never saw myself working illegally and I've got into this situation thanks to the English. So would you go back to sleep in Victoria after working for £400? I don't know, I am only speaking for those living with me here, we all want to work legally, but the English should fix their own problems, not us, who offers me the illegal work, us or the English?

COMM: Migrants, with no fixed address, and moving from one casual job to another, are difficult to track. That suits the agent; he says his fraud is commonplace.

"Employment Agent": I would estimate that East Europeans 25% of them are in a situation where they're working on a basis where they're illegally employed in that their tax and national insurance is not being accounted for.

COMM: The Government says that opening the UK labour market to workers from the new EU countries has reduced the incentive for illegality. This agent used to employ illegal immigrants from Eastern Europe, before their countries joined. But he says now that they can come and work legally, his fraud is easier to carry off.

"Employment Agent": They don't attract attention, they don't attract the attention that they used to. Now that they're here, everybody knows that they're allowed to be here. There's no real risk in terms of them being deported or anything like that.

And that's of an advantage for a recruitment agency that wants to have people working for it, but not account exactly and precisely for everything that's gone on.

COMM: An unknown number of Britain's new migrants are working casually, some illegally. They aren't monitored, or counted.

This reality presents a difficulty for politicians who talk about controlling or managing migration.

Reporter: You're saying now that you want to control and reduce immigration numbers.

David Davis, Conservative, Shadow Home Secretary: Yes.

Reporter: How can you know you want to reduce the numbers if you don't know how many are here?

David Davis, Conservative, Shadow Home Secretary: Well we have a rough and ready estimate at the moment, this 130,000 is a rough and ready estimate. Your films imply that it doesn't catch everybody, but we will have to make a better estimate than that. Which we haven't got at the moment frankly, and then compensate for it in the rest of the immigration policy.

Des Browne, Labour Immigration Minister: I have no doubt that some of these accession workers or some of these accession nationals have found their way into the informal economy of the United Kingdom.

Reporter: How many do you think are working illegally of these new migrants who have come here legally?

Des Browne, Labour Immigration Minister: Well I'm not able to give... to put a figure on that. At... at... present, in the absence of a structure such as identity cards in the United Kingdom, such as electronic borders which register people coming in and out, there is no way that anybody would know.

Mark Oaten, Liberal Democrat Home Affairs: There can be no excuse for illegal working in this country. There needs to be a very tough regime to make sure that, if we are welcoming individuals to come into the economy, we want them as part of the full economy, not part of a hidden economy, and the police need to do more to tackle that.

COMM: This new migration from Eastern Europe, is overwhelmingly white, and may be having another effect, of making Britain a little less diverse. The numbers of unskilled migrants coming in from outside the EU, on quota schemes, are now being restricted.

Des Browne, Labour Immigration Minister: As far as I'm concerned in terms of a migration policy in relation to the labour markets, I am racially blind, and I am not looking for a workforce which is one colour or another colour.

COMM: Bangladeshis are already affected by Britain's new migrants. A month after the eight Eastern European countries joined the EU, the Government cut back the number of Bangladeshis allowed to come to Britain to work in the hospitality industry. In February the Government said that work permit schemes for unskilled migrants from outside the EU would be phased out altogether. The door to Britain for the unskilled will only be staying open for workers from the EU.

Des Browne, Labour Immigration Minister: We always said that we would look at the effect on our labour markets. Part of the effect is that there are... that there is a significantly increased pool of workers now from the expanded European Union. There is no reason why an EU accession worker cannot work just as well in the kitchen of a Bangladeshi restaurant as he can or she can, in the kitchen of an Italian or a British or a French restaurant here in London.

COMM: The lives of all the new migrants have been changed.

Andrzej Rybitwa, the bus driver from Warsaw who came to Nottingham has now been joined in Britain by his wife.

Ela is getting casual work as a child minder. Piotr has just got a job in a factory. They are not on the official figures. He says he's going to register.

Dr. Szabolcs Szoke is now working as an out-of-hours GP in Berkshire. He's earning more than double his original salary here.

Jarek Knapp speaks better English now: and he's doing legal work: A succession of temporary jobs booked through a legitimate employment agency.

Zoltan Majlath from Hungary who was doing casual work for cash, is now employed, as a street cleaner in North London. He is registered with the Home Office.

The Hungarian gypsy, Aniko Bango, is expecting her second child shortly. They're going to have the baby in hospital - in Hungary.

Monika and Evelina who got jobs at Costa Coffee at the Airport, have got better paid jobs now, handing out cash to airline passengers instead of coffee.

Wieslaw, "the Professor" is still living on the streets, still without a job, and still uncounted on the official statistics. As soon as I get a job I'll try to disappear from the streets.

Music begins If you would like to comment on this programme, you can visit our website at bbc.dot co dot uk slash panorama

Britain's new migrants
20 Apr 05 |  Panorama
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24 Apr 05 |  Panorama
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24 Apr 05 |  Panorama
Your comments
24 Apr 05 |  Panorama
Immigration: Party policies
15 Feb 05 |  UK Politics


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