Surge in immigration of new EU immigrants
29 August 2006
BRUSSELS — The number of immigrants from the new EU member states living in Belgium has almost doubled since the EU expanded in May 2004.
That represents a sharp increase, but not the feared flood of new arrivals, a Flemish academic has said.
Leading the surge in immigration are Poles and Slovaks, plus nationals from the Baltic States, news service VRT reported.
At the time of EU enlargement, there were just 16,236 citizens from the new member states living in Belgium. There are now 30,670.
But immigrants from the Central and Eastern European member states were expected to settle here. And the population shift has now been confirmed by official statistics.
In January 2004, some 11,600 Polish nationals were living in Belgium, but there are almost 20,000 living here now.
The number of Hungarians settling in Belgium also doubled over the same period.
The Slovak community is the fastest growing foreign community in Belgium and their population has quadrupled in recent years.
And after the Polish, Slovaks are now also the largest immigrant community from the 10 new member states in Belgium.
The number of immigrants from the Baltic States of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia has almost tripled over the past two years.
Despite the sharp increase, Catholic University of Leuven academic Paul De Grauwe said Belgium did not witness a flood wave of immigrants because the economy in Central and Eastern Europe is also performing well.
In comparison, the UK accepted 600,000 immigrants because English is its main language and immigrants can therefore quickly find work there.
But De Grauwe said immigration is also good for the economy, stressing that an inflow of migrants boosts the active workforce, leading to a stronger economy.
[Copyright Expatica News 2006]
Subject: Belgian news