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Romanian Immigrations in United Kingdom


Immigration in the UK has been on a constant rise with the country’s new immigration rising since 1970s. Hatton has pointed out that immigration exceeded net migration in 1998-2000 has increased by more than 1000 thousand per annum (Hatton, 2005, p.719; Travis, 2007). The increasing number of immigrants in the UK fumed a debate regarding the effect of immigrants on UK’s economy and society (BBC News, 27 January 2009). With the economic recession taking away many jobs, the wrath has fallen on the immigrants who are still employed. Thus illegal immigrants, who are often willing to work at low rates, are retaining jobs while British labours are losing jobs due to economic downturn (Fagge, 2009).

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The paper tries to understand the nature of the debate over Romanian immigrants in the UK. The paper will analyse the content of the newspapers and television programs based on this particular issue and the nature of discourse spread through these in forming public opinion. In the next section, the paper provides a brief review of the background of the roman immigration problem and the basic issues of the debate.


Economic downturn took away many British jobs. This led to the increase of racialism and the life of immigrant workers becoming even more difficult (McDonald, 2008). The number of illegal workers, mostly at UK construction sites were high due to the low wage rate that the immigrant labours were willing to work for (Fagge, 2009). There has been increased aggression against foreign workers: “Wildcat strikes over foreign labour spread today as the bitter dispute escalated despite calls from the Government for the industrial action to stop.” (Fagge, 2009) The wrath against foreign workers increased with a BBC 4 broadcast, which stated that the foreign workers were working for a lower wage than the British workers were and thus were taking away British jobs. Further, there have been increased incidences being reported of racialism against immigrant Romanians after the downturn of the economy.

The racialism and hatred that the British populace has harboured for the Romanian immigrants have been ignited for various reasons like loss of job and recession. This has led to a decrease in labour force: “With a drop of close to 25 per cent in Ireland’s once booming construction industry, fears are also rising that concerns over job losses, the credit crunch and the still high cost of living will produce an unprecedented wave of racism and xenophobia.” (McDonald, 2008).

Such hatred has led to anti-foreigner agitations and violence. The issue that arises is why such hatred arose in the first place. Assuming Hatton (2005) to be correct in his estimates, British immigration has been always high. Therefore, there were more foreigners coming in the country than those moving out. Hence, this influx of Romanians is not a new phenomenon. Why did the hatred arise now? Was it merely due to the recession or a discursive force of the media, which has made the Britons xenophobic?

Aim and Objective

The aim of the paper is to analyse the reason for such adverse reaction to immigrant Romanians and the effect media coverage of the issue has affected public opinion. The question that the paper will try to answer is if the media has affected the public opinion and in what way. The paper aims to do a content analysis of the newspaper articles published during the last five months in UK on the issue of Romanian immigration in the country. The articles will present an idea as to the kind of discussion the articles had on framing the people’s ideas about immigrants in Britain. Further, the analysis of the articles will also show if the papers will responsible to some extent for the fear of foreigners in British minds.


The method adopted to understand the sentiment of the people on the issue of immigration, especially from Romania; the paper aims to do a content analysis of the number of newspaper and television programs. This analysis will provide a detailed understanding as to what is the discourse related to Romanian immigrants in the UK. The period chosen for this research is for the last five months. This is so because the debate has gained a fresh air with the usage of mostly Bulgarian and Romanian workers for the building of the Olympics stadium.

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The articles are analysed from internet publications of newspapers or TV channels like The Independent, Telegraph, Guardian, The Sofia Echo, Sunday Herald, and BBC. These newspapers and television channel was selected for the analysis as these are the best know mass media of the UK. The articles, which are related to Roman immigrants in the United Kingdom published in the last five months, will be found through in text search of the articles. This search in Google news yielded 296 articles from January 2009 to May 2009. From these articles, the content was further filtered by identifying the articles, which directly addressed the issue.

The articles were then read through to understand the discourse that the articles spread and the kind of public opinion they could possibly spread. For this, the articles were divided into three categories viz. positive, negative and neutral. Now based on the number of articles in the positive, negative or neutral category we will ascertain the kind of discourse media spread regarding Romanian immigration in the UK to mould public opinion.


This section analyzes the content of the articles of the newspapers and television programs in order to understand the nature o f discourse spread through its content. The direction of discourse is segregated into three parts: positive, negative, and neutral. First, the paper will deal with negative discourses of the news articles.

The Observer printed 13 articles on Romanian immigrant labours in the UK in 2009. The articles have both positive and negative connotations. The guardian reported that many Romanian immigrants were leaving UK due to the impending recession and the increase of racism in the country against immigrants: “With growing concerns over job losses and the credit crunch starting to bite, Ireland’s migrant workers are feeling the strain – not just in their pockets, but in their relationship with the adopted homeland.” (McDonald, 2008). The article further reports instances of violence against immigrants in the UK.

Another article shows the political colour of the immigration problem in the UK where the Labour party is blamed by the opponents for being too lenient on the immigration issue of the country. In a speech of the Conservative party leader, David Cameron states:

I think the levels of migration we see in the early part of the decade [1997-2007] of this government, when the asylum numbers were very high… I think we have put too great a burden on public services.” (White, 2007)

Another article published on December 2008 in the guardian revealed that the migrant quota was increased to 21000 due to shortage of labour in the agriculture. The argument put forward by the Guardian is that the immigration will help the UK economy but with the recession, the situation may differ (Travis, 2008; Travis, 2008). However, the sub heading of the article states “More unskilled Romanians and Bulgarians allowed in” which instantly instigates a feeling of discontent among Britons who dislike foreigners.

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Another article in the newspaper on Romanian immigrants’ shows that the popular fear of immigrants taking away the jobs of Britons has been proven wrong by a research as had been reported by the Guardian:

Claims those migrants “take our jobs” and “cut our pay” are misplaced and wrong, according to research published today by the Institute for Public Policy Research. The economists say there is no evidence to suggest that large-scale migration from Eastern Europe since 2004 has had any substantial negative impact on either wages or employment. Indeed, they add that it is entirely possible there has been a small positive impact on both of these or no impact at all.” (Travis, 2009)

The above line is representative of the derogatory impact media has on framing public opinion to demonstrate the impact of the foreign immigrants. The article stresses on the positive effect immigrants on the UK economy: “East European influx ‘may have had positive effect’” (Travis, 2009). There have been instances of increased racial strife (Hinsliff, 2009). The British government has tried to curb the immigration in the UK as reported by Guardian (, 2009; Dismore, 2009;, 2009; Travis, 2009).

However, other newspapers like the Telegraph covered the raiding of illegal immigrants working in the UK and eating away the jobs of Britons (Evening Telegraph, 2009). There has been a rise of immigrants in the UK (Beckford, 2009). Immigrants having negative impact on Britons are depicted in the newspaper (Swaine, 2009; Whitehead, 2009; Hope, 2009).

Another article in the Telegraph deals with the recession and the return of the immigrants’ home even due to recession (Beckford, 2009; Moir, 2009). The article further stresses on the immigrant population staying in Britain during the recession directly indicating that the British population will have less access to low-skilled labour jobs during the recession (Beckford, 2009). Telegraph has covered the ill effect of immigrant on the UK (Whitehead, 2009). The article also provided the expense on the exchequer for all foreign immigrants to England further indicating the burden of immigrants on UK’s economy (Beckford, 2009). There has been increased rage against East European immigrant workers (Waterfield, 2009; Hope, 2009).

Some neutral articles were spotted in Forbes, which stated that the UK Government has curbed the entry of East European into UK due to the rising British unemployment (Reuters, 2009; Whitehead, 2009). Another article relates how Lord Mandelson called the east Europeans a blessing as they were filling up jobs that the Britons were unwilling to take (Guardian, 2009). Another article showed a positive note when it reported a fall in the number of immigrants in Britain due to recession (Travis, 2009; Whitehead, 2009; Wintour, 2007). Another article states that the exodus of migrants could hurt the UK economy (Pollard, 2009).

Another article published in the Telegraph dealt with a British girl being asked to leave an Eastern European restaurant because she was British: “Claims that a student was told to leave a Polish supermarket because it had a policy to not serve English people are being investigated.” (Daily Telegraph, 2009) When the shopkeeper was interrogated, he denied the charges but added, “I don’t turn anyone away from my shop I serve Russians, Latvians, Brazilians and Portuguese.” (Daily Telegraph, 2009) The article will shock any British who were already feeling the pang of a job cut due to recession.

The last two articles in the Telegraph directly negate the presence of the immigrant populace in Britain. The articles show the ill that the immigrant population is doing to the British. The first directly states that with no immigrants ready to move out of the country, the British will have less access to the job market during the recession. In addition, the second article states how a foreign immigrant had ill-treated a British girl unnecessarily.

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In 2009 one of the leading newspapers of UK, The Independent had published only one articles related to the problem of immigration related to Romanians. The articles concentrated on the sacking of the illegal immigrants working for the Olympics stadium (McSmith, 2009). The articles reported a call by the Conservatives to restrict immigration and employment of immigrants stricter. The article ended with the number of illegal immigrants working in the site. The paper also printed an article where the Government has accused the statistical department for releasing false figures related to relate to immigration labours (Russell, 2009; Chapman, 2009).

News in the BBC covered illegal immigrants working in the Kensington Close Hotel for particularly low wages (BBC News, 7 January 2009). The news investigates into the matter and the hotel authorities directly refuse any connection with the illegal act and states that the Romanian workers had produced illegal documents (BBC News, 7 January 2009). However, in an undercover report the BBC unearthed that the hotel authorities was completely aware of the origin of the workers (BBC News, 7 January 2009; BBC News, 27 January 2009; BBC News, 17 March 2009). However, article also criminalised the forging of ID fraud, which again may have a derogatory effect on the people. Illegal immigrants are being held in special detention centres (BBC News, 17 March 2009; Whitehead, 2009; BBC News, 6 March 2009).

In another report, BBC presented that six illegal immigrants were arrested of whom Indians and Romanians were working illegally in a restaurant (BBC News, 22 March 2009). In another article, covering immigration problem in Italy and the rising anger and racial strains against the immigrants has been captures in one news article (BBC News, 4 February 2009). The article identifies the frustration and violence against immigrant populace. This could also instigate the British to become violent against the immigrants.

A Daily Express article completely supports the movement against immigrants and the claim that British jobs are for British people: “Foreign workers are pricing out British builders by working for as little as £2-an-hour, the Daily Express can reveal today.” (Fagge, 2009). Further, it also accused Britain for its problem of immigrants (Fagge, 2009). Daily Mail Online too held the view that soft immigration policy crippled the job market for Britons (Daily Mail Online, 2 February 2009; Daily Mail Online, 3 March 2009). This clearly shows that the newspaper is indicating that the immigrants are one of the reasons for British people losing their jobs.


The influx of immigrants in UK has increased constantly. Further, with the inclusion of the Romanians in the EU has increased the number of immigrants in the country, even though most of the British support imposing restrictions on migration from countries like Romanian or Bulgaria: “The majority of the UK citizens supported imposing restrictions on the migration of workers, a Tonight with Trevor McDonald survey showed.” (The Sofia Echo, 2006).

Clearly, there has been a fear of immigrants in the country, which had become a clear issue for the elections. The findings of the content analysis of the articles related to the Romanian immigrants in UK in the UK based newspapers show that there is a partisan attitude that the newspapers have propagated through their articles. The articles directly related to the British labours loosing job due to the immigrant labourers, without mentioning in many cases if the foreigner was a legal or illegal incumbent. Further, some articles seem to believe that the low wages that the foreign immigrants are ready to work for are the necessary reason for such cases. Nevertheless, most of the articles tend not to discuss the status of the foreigners in Britain i.e. if they are a legal or illegal entrant in the country. A legal entrant will have to pay taxes and other revenues for their earnings in the UK while an illegal immigrant need not. These arguments are missing from the articles that instigate people to become violent against Romanian immigrants. Further, the analysis also found that very few articles spoke positively of the immigrants.


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Hope, C., 2009. Home Office lays on seminar to advise British firms on how to hire foreign workers. The Daily Telegraph, Web.

Hope, C., 2009. Number of illegal migrants in Britain is 80 per cent more than official estimates. The Daily Telegraph, Web.

McDonald, H., 2008. Ireland’s immigrants return home as slump sharpens fear of racism. The Guardian, Web.

McSmith, A., 2009. UK inspectors ‘quietly sack’ 200 Romanian Olympic site workers. The Independent, Web.

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Russell, B., 2009. Ministers ‘fizzing’ over early release of immigration data. The Independent, Web.

Swaine, J., 2009. Britons rejected for low-paid jobs in favour of ‘reliable’ eastern European immigrants. The Daily Telegraph, Web.


Travis, A., 2008. 11,000 illegal migrants licensed to work as private security guards. The Guardian, Web.

Travis, A., 2007. Forecasters say UK population may grow to 108m by 2081. The Guardian, Web.

Travis, A., 2009. Foreign workers could be barred from entering UK. The Guardian, Web.

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Travis, A., 2008. Migrants quota raised to 21,000 to help farmers harvest crops. The Guardian , Web.

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Waterfield, B., 2009. EU enlargement blocked over backlash against foreign workers. The Daily Talegraph, Web.

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Whitehead, T., 2009. Detention centre planned for illegal immigrants in Calais. The Guardian, Web.

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Whitehead, T., 2009. Foreign workers’ share of job market almost doubles under Labour to record high. The Daily Telegraph, Web.

Whitehead, T., 2009. Migrants coming to Britain will have to pay ‘immigration tax’. The Telegraph, Web.

Whitehead, T., 2009. New migration ‘tax’ will be ‘drop in the ocean’ claims Migrationwatch. The Daily Telegraph, Web.

Wintour, P., 2007. English tests to be part of a tougher new strategy on immigration. The Guardian, Web.

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