Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The Age of Restlessness

On New Year’s Day, 2014, during those sunny, innocent times of Cameron, Clegg and Miliband, Labour MP Keith Vaz headed down to Luton Airport to greet new arrivals coming off the planes.

There he met a rather bemused young Romanian man, Victor Spirescu, who had no idea he was going to become the face of migration on the day that citizens of Romania and Bulgaria were allowed free movement within the EU.

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It was a sort of mini-publicity stunt by Vaz, but all for a good cause: a response to fear mongering by the Right-wing press who warned that we’d be ‘flooded’ by Romanians, and predictions by MigrationWatch that’d we have 50,000 new arrivals a year from the A2 countries (as Romania and Bulgaria were called).

Twitter that day was full of journalists and other public intellectuals laughing about how we were going to be ‘swamped’. Why would Romanians, after all, want to come here, to this miserable rainy island?

‘We’ve seen no evidence of people who have rushed out and bought tickets in order to arrive because it’s the 1st of January,’ Vaz concluded.

Various publications, with the ill-founded confidence so often found in the journalist trade, soon declared that the Romanian influx was a conservative fantasy.

‘Eastern European invasion comes to nothing’, the Independent declared on the day, just a tad prematurely you might say.


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