Page last updated at 14:21 GMT, Wednesday, 26 March 2008

EU migrants relocating to the UK

By Ray Furlong
BBC News

Public concern over immigration has led the government to announce a stop on unskilled workers arriving from non-EU countries. But every year refugees and immigrants who have gained citizenship elsewhere in the EU migrate for a second time - to Britain.

Abdi Mohamed
Abdi Mohamed left a four-bedroom house in the Netherlands

Abdi Mohamed is one of 10,000 Somalis who have come to Leicester in recent years from other EU countries.

When his wife got a Dutch passport he joined her in the Netherlands - and then brought the whole family to Leicester.

"We eat on the floor. We can't keep chairs here; no room for them," he says in his tiny kitchen. Then it's up a narrow, steep staircase into the small room where his three children sleep.

Abdi abandoned a spacious four-bedroom house in the Netherlands for this poky two-bedroom terrace. But he's adamant this was the right decision.

"We can get here a Muslim community who can stay together. In Netherlands you're scattered, it's hard to find a Muslim community."

As we talk, a Somali neighbour drops his kids off from school - underlining his point. All the Somalis I spoke to complained that in the Netherlands they were dispersed around the country rather than living together.

High unemployment

But Abdi, a trainee teacher in Somalia, has not found work.

"We did research in 2004 and the unemployment rate within the community is almost 85 percent," says Jawaahir Daahir, head of Somali Development Services, which provides training, help and advice.

"You will see now in Leicester there are a lot of Somali businesses, I think about 400, because the Somali people are very entrepreneurial people. But also because many people could not find a suitable job they go self-employed."

Ali Barre
Ali Barre found Dutch bureaucracy unbearable

The café Kilimanjaro is a typical Somali business. Built in a former textile factory, it is filled with the aroma of East African cooking and the blare of Arab satellite TV.

Sipping tea here, self-employed cab driver Ali Barre said he had to do factory work in the Netherlands because the bureaucracy required to get a cab licence was unbearable. "There are more opportunities here," he says.

Most of the new Somali arrivals have come from Scandinavian countries. Hinda Ahmed Awad arrived from Denmark 18 months ago. A soft-spoken single mother of seven children, she works 10 hours a week as a school cleaner, but has no regrets.

"In Denmark, my children were the only blacks in their school. Here there are other black or Muslim children. Leicester is multi-cultural."

Dramatic impacts

Indeed, Leicester is set to become Europe's first majority non-white city. But when the Somalis first arrived the city council called for help.

A submission to the Home Affairs Select Committee in 2005 noted: "The absence of any mechanisms to provide assistance in the occasional circumstances where a community, usually a city, is expected to cope with mass migration is a potential crisis in waiting."

It's a continuing means of coming to the UK that could take on a significant scale
Sir Andrew Green
Migrationwatch

"No increase in the Ethnic Minority Achievement Grant has occurred to reflect these major changes and stresses. Even the modest £500 per pupil identified by the Home Office for asylum seeker children (for which EU citizens are generally ineligible) would have generated £700,000 for our estimates of new arrivals in the current year alone."

So there can be dramatic local impacts even though the numbers are not large in terms of overall national immigration.

"It's a continuing means of coming to the UK that could take on a significant scale," warns Sir Andrew Green, head of Migrationwatch.

Pointing to amnesties granted to illegal immigrants in Spain and Italy, he adds: "There's no European standard on how to get citizenship - the scope for onward movement is substantial."

Hundreds moving

Leicester is not an isolated case. It is hard to get reliable figures, but in Milton Keynes, for example, there is anecdotal evidence of hundreds of Ghanaians who have come from Germany, France, and the Benelux countries.

Nana Ohene Gyan-Boatey came from Hamburg five years ago. He says racism in German schools led him to relocate.

"The children were not happy at school, because of what we know the Germans are. So we decided to come here."

Nana Ohene Gyan-Boatey
Nana Ohene Gyan-Boatey says he feared racism in Germany

Another big group are Tamils. A recent paper by the Centre on Migration, Policy and Society at Oxford University noted: "Asylum applications by Tamils in the UK have dwindled since the 2002 ceasefire in Sri Lanka," but that preliminary research "suggests a substantial movement of Tamils from continental Europe to the UK is underway."

The relative economic buoyancy of the UK in recent years compared to continental Europe seems to have been a key draw.

But many of the people I spoke to, including Tamils and Ghanaians in Milton Keynes, said getting their children educated in English was a key factor in deciding to migrate a second time.

"When we came, my daughter didn't have a word of English," says Nana Ohene Gyan-Boatey. "But the primary school got a special teacher to assist her to learn English. It's a big difference. We never had these chances in Germany."




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