Maidstone is the most popular destination for Bulgarian and Romanian migrants heading for the South East, a report has revealed.
The figures come as the Government, obliged by its EU treaty, this week lifted all restrictions on migrants from those countries.
Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU in 2007, but Britain imposed restrictions on their coming to work here, restrictions which expired on New Year’s Day.
However, a study by academics at Reading University, has found that significant numbers of Bulgarians and Romanians have already made it to this country, possibly around 150,000 since 2001, and the UK has the 4th highest concentration of any European country of its type.
The report was commissioned by the South East Strategic Partnership for Migration to provide guidance to local authorities in the South East preparing for any new influx of migrants.
When the A8 countries (such as Romania and Bulgaria) joined in 2004, no work restrictions were imposed, and an estimated 1m migrants have since joined us from those countries, notably from Poland.
The academics admitted it was difficult to determine exactly where the migrants were settling, but one measure of tracing them was to see where applicants for new insurance numbers said they were living.
That revealed that Maidstone had registered 15.4% of all Bulgarians settling in the South East and 9.2% of Romanians, more of both than any other local authority in the region.
Three Roma children in Romania. Library picture
By comparison, neighbouring Tonbridge and Malling registered only 4.5% and 3.9% respectively.
The study looked at the pattern of migration across Europe and determined that although employment rates and the state of the host economy played a part in migrants’ decision where to move, one of the biggest influences was the “network” effect.
The top three nationalities of migrants to Kent districts during 2012/13
Ashford Nepal 130 Poland 115 Hungary 61
Canterbury Poland 416 Bulgaria 117 Lithuania 95
Dartford Poland 152 Lithuania 59 Portugal 49
Dover Poland 112 Lithuania 62 Slovakia 62
Gravesham Poland 218 Lithuania 166 Slovakia 73
Maidstone Bulgaria 356 Poland 326 Lithuania 123
Sevenoaks Poland 75 Spain 30 Hungary 27
Shepway Nepal 110 Czech Rep 50 Poland 33
Swale Lithuania 216 Poland 209 Bulgaria 157
Thanet Poland 196 Latvia 191 Slovakia 105
Tonbridge & Malling Poland 107 Romania 105 Bulgaria 68
Tunbridge Wells Poland 180 Romania 70 Bulgaria 62
Source: National Insurance registrations
Migrants like to move to places where there is already a migrant community, perhaps because they already have relatives or friends there.
Although the number of A2 migrants currently in Maidstone is small - estimated at 1,000 - the implication is that Maidstone will be a prime target for any new influx of Bulgarians and Romanians.
Although the Governrnent and local authorities often champion migration as being good for the economy, the research suggests that effect is lessening over time.
When the Bulgarians and Romanians first appeared, most were highly qualified single adults seeking work.
But the proportion in work has dropped from 90% to 75% last year; the proportion of Romanians arriving with a degree or equivalent has fallen from 25.3% to 14.3%, while those with no qualification at all had increased from 12.9% to 18.2%.
The researchers say that a third are expected to have young children within four years of their arrival creating concerns about school provision.
Bulgaria and Romania have a combined population of around 27.4m.
The report did not put an estimate on the number likely to journey to Britain, but said that net migration had accounted for half of the increase in the UK population over the past two decades and would account for two-thirds of population growth until 2035.
Maidstone council spokesman Roger Adley said: “The council will give detailed consideration to the full report.”
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