Romanian migrant becomes star in Britain

5th January 2014, Comments 0 comments

The British media had warned of a flood of new Bulgarian and Romanian migrants arriving on January 1, but judging by this week's coverage, they only appeared to have found one.

Victor Spirescu, a 30-year-old Romanian, has become an unexpected star after flying into Luton airport, north of London, on the day EU labour market restrictions on his nation and Bulgaria were lifted.

He has become the face of the new arrivals, featuring in several national newspapers in Britain -- including for a double-page spread in The Times -- appearing on Sky News and has been interviewed by the Romanian media back home.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper even travelled to Romania to interview his 19-year-old fiancee, Catalina Curcean, in what it called their "ramshackle" house outside the village of Pelisor in Transylvania.

A gaggle of journalists had gathered to greet Spirescu's flight on January 1, in hopes of a story about hoardes of migrants arriving to seek work and possibly to abuse Britain's welfare system.

Media panic about the new influx and fears about 'benefits tourism' had led the British government to rush through measures in December restricting access to unemployment hand-outs to new EU migrants.

But of the 140 passengers on board the 180-seat plane from Tirgu Mures in central Romania, most were already working in Britain and were returning from their Christmas holidays.

Spirescu was one of the exceptions, making his first trip to Britain to earn enough money to take home so he and his future wife could finish renovating their house.

He was greeted by television cameras and two members of parliament, who said they wanted to see for themselves the first day of unrestricted migration to Britain.

The media attention has continued all week -- and although Spirescu appeared relaxed when he appeared on Sky News on Sunday for a live panel discussion on immigration, he admitted it was a little weird.

"When I go in supermarkets, all the people look at me. I see a little girl, she said to her mum, 'hey this is the guy off the television'," he said.

He added that everyone had been "very friendly".

Within a day of arriving, Spirescu had found a job washing cars at a supermarket in Biggleswade, west of Cambridge, although he hopes to win more lucrative work in construction.

Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron has refused to say how many new migrants are expected, after the last Labour government underestimated by almost one million the number of Poles arriving after Poland joined the EU in 2004.

© 2014 AFP

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