Bulgarians not 'beggars' in Britain: foreign minister

19th December 2013, Comments 0 comments

Sofia slammed on Thursday British moves to stop EU migrants claiming unemployment benefits as being driven by unfounded "hysteria", saying Bulgarians were not "beggars".

"Bulgarians are not beggars in Britain," Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin, who on Tuesday postponed a visit to London, said.

"They do not exploit the social welfare system but contribute with the instalments they pay much more than they receive," he told bTV television.

"The majority are highly educated professionals on well-paid jobs. The rest are taking up niches on the market -- lower paid, hard physical labour jobs -- that the British cannot or do not want to undertake."

Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Wednesday that he would rush through legislation banning migrants from other EU countries from claiming unemployment and housing benefits until they have been in Britain for three months.

The move was part of a package of measures to restrict "benefit tourism" announced last month, but has been accelerated amid concerns about an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians when they gain full rights to live and work in Britain from the start of next year.

Vigenin was however categorical on Thursday that there will not be a rush to cross the English Channel, saying "in January they will see that nothing new will happen in Britain ... We will show that there is no influx."

He said it was a "pity" that Cameron had responded to anti-immigration feeling whipped up by eurosceptic UK Independence Party leader Nigel Farage ahead of the European elections in 2014 and by tabloid newspapers.

Farage "created a fully unfounded hysteria in Britain by exploiting made-up fears, with the Bulgarians and Romanians being the easiest scapegoats of this campaign because of the upcoming job market opening," Vigenin said.

Bulgaria and Romania joined the European Union in 2007 but still remain the bloc's poorest members with salaries a fraction of the European average.

Restrictions are also due to be eased for Bulgarians and Romanians on January 1 in a number of other EU countries including France, Germany and the Netherlands.

© 2013 AFP

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