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East European immigrants on first UK flight

The first Romanians and Bulgarians with unrestricted access to the UK labour market have begun to arrive despite last-ditch efforts to prevent a feared wave of fresh immigration.

AIRPORT VISIT: Keith Vaz at Luton to meet the flight from Romania.
AIRPORT VISIT: Keith Vaz at Luton to meet the flight from Romania.

Romanians landing at Luton Airport were greeted yesterday by Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz, who said that those arriving provided just a "snapshot" of those expected to come to the country over the coming months.

A 180-seat aircraft from Tirgu Mures only had 140 passengers on board, most of whom already lived and work in the UK.

Mr Vaz said: "Just on the conversations we have had with people who have come here, a lot are returning people, they already work in Britain and they are coming back after a holiday so they are not people coming here for the first time," said the Labour MP.

"We have seen no evidence of people who have rushed out and bought tickets to arrive because it's the 1st of January. We would be surprised if they did, so this is, after all, only a snapshot.

"But we do need to resolve this issue in the future, and it is an issue for the whole of the EU to resolve so we do not get these kinds of dramas at the end."

Mr Vaz criticised the "panic measures" ahead of the temporary curbs imposed in 2005 on citizens of Romania and Bulgaria being lifted.

Ninety senior Conservatives attempted to block the move in a letter to Prime Minister David Cameron, arguing he could invoke a clause in EU law to keep the borders shut. Ministers denied such a move would be feasible.

Mr Vaz also spoke out against the Government's refusal to publish or commission estimates of the numbers expected to enter Britain in the face of unofficial research predicting as many as 50,000 people arriving from the eastern European countries each year.

"There are already 141,000 Romanians and Bulgarians living in the UK," he said. "The concern of the committee has always been the lack of robust estimates of people coming here and we still feel very strongly the Government ought to have asked the Migration Advisory Committee to have conducted a piece of research.

One newcomer on the flight was Victor Spiresau, 30, who earned €10 (£8.30p) a day working in construction at home but hoped to make £10 an hour in the UK.

But he was not planning on settling. "I don't come to rob your country. I come to work and then go home," he said. "Here you pay a lot, in Romania it's very cheap."

Mr Spiresau said he already had work lined up washing cars in London, but hoped to go on to work in the construction industry and chose to come to the UK over other European countries because he can speak the language.

"I don't want to stay here. I want to renovate my home and to make a good life in Romania because it is much easier to live in Romania because it is not expensive."

Mr Spiresau, who has left his wife at home in their small village, added: "She hopes to see me with a lot of money."

The Romanian was invited to join Mr Vaz for a coffee, where the MP asked him about his plans for his time in the UK.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We welcome those that want to come here to work and contribute to the economy, but no EU national has unrestricted access to the UK - they must be working, studying or self-sufficient. We are focusing on cutting out the abuse of free movement between EU member states and addressing the factors that drive European immigration to Britain.

"We are working to ensure our controls on accessing benefits and services are amongst the tightest in Europe."

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