In response to fears of a possible wave of immigrants flooding the country, a source of panic for Britain’s main sectors, Romania has retaliated by launching a tourism campaign with the title “Why don’t you come over?”
From 1st January 2014 all European Union (UE) member countries are obliged to lift restrictions in order to allow for the free movement of Romanians and Bulgarians between member states. The close proximity of this date has left David Cameron on edge.
Under pressure from members of his own Conservative Party and other groups who warn of the risks that this issue poses to the jobs market, the Prime Minister has assured that he will limit the benefits that these immigrants will be entitled to with the aim of discouraging their migration to this country.
The Tory–Liberal Democrats coalition leader stated his intention to restrict access to public services such as housing, healthcare and the justice system in addition to other welfare benefits, in order to deter those keen to migrate to the UK.
During parliament’s customary question time, Cameron spoke of how many of the current arrangements simply do not pass a simple commonsense test given that services and benefits are the right of all British citizens but they are not the right of anyone who just chooses to come and live in the country.
Furthermore, during an interview with the Daily Express, he announced that his government hopes to save millions of pounds by restricting new immigrants’ access to the legal aid that the UK provides for civil cases. With these declarations, the Prime Minister made it clear that an assessment will be made of both the potential damage to the jobs market and the measures to be taken to reduce immigration.
We are currently deciding how to proceed, we have a European legal framework within which to make our decisions and there are a series of issues that we would like to work on with other member states, stated 10 Downing Street, official residence of the Prime Minister.
Other important British political figures such as opposition Labour leader, Ed Milliband, and London mayor, Boris Johnson, demanded that the government take steps to avoid the consequences of the removal of the restrictions.
The rules of the Schengen Area allow the free movement of people and goods between the member countries along with the right to work in any other member state.
Though Romania and Bulgaria became members in 2007, unrestricted access was put back until 2014.
With this measure impending and the UK debating its relationship with the EU, the government ordered the National Institute of Economic and Social Research to carry out a study on the impact of a possible mass migration of Romanians and Bulgarians.
The standpoint, however, is not to deter all kinds of immigration as attracting investors and entrepreneurs is still a priority, as are students of certain nationalities with training in high-demand industries.
Despite the fact that Cameron’s government proposes to reduce net immigration levels to less than 100,000 people per year, restrictions are mainly focused on preventing migration from those EU countries which have been worst hit by the economic crisis.
In the middle of political debates on this issue, the British media echoed rumours of a negative advertising campaign for the UK aimed at deterring immigrants, which centred on its climate and lack of resources to attend to those who come to the country.
The Guardian published these rumours, which were not denied by Downing Street, and called for its readers to supply their own contributions to this discouraging campaign that the government might run.
Rain in summertime and the living isn’t easy, don’t come, we’re full ; The sky is grey eight months of the year, try Miami instead; Don’t come to Britain, it’s full of…alcoholics, asbestos, bishops, corrupt politicians, the Daily Mail, were some of the messages sent in.
It did not take long for a reaction from the other side of the EU to arrive and the Bulgarian foreign minister, Nikolai Mladenov, spoke of how the nature of Cameron’s government’s campaign was not in line with the morals or principles of the bloc.
A witty reply to Britain’s fear came from the Romanian newspaper Gandul.info, which retaliated with an ad campaign created by the GMP agency as a response to the rumours that the UK was preparing measures and negative propaganda in order to prevent the entry of immigrants.
With the phrase “We may not like Britain but you’ll love Romania”, the newspaper launched a series of ads which combine irony, a promotion of the tourism industry and the sense of pride of this East European country.
Another slogan promoted by the digital newspaper reads “Half of our women look like Kate (Middleton, wife of Prince William, heir to the British throne). The other half, like her sister”.
The creator of this initiative, Mihai Gongu, described how the newspaper was bold enough to publish this news and quickly respond to the British initiative of launching a negative campaign with the aim of deterring Romanians from entering in the UK.
Gandul, one of Romania’s principal digital newspapers, regularly publishes new slogans on its main page and Gongu explained that it is here where Romanians use irony to turn Britain’s intentions around in order to benefit themselves.
The next phase of this campaign was recently launched through the creation of the website www.whydontyoucomeover.co.uk where, at the click of a button, Britons looking to travel can invite themselves to sleep on the sofas of numerous Romanians offering to take them in.
Our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is 50% less than yours but we have three times as much fun, claims the counter-campaign which has also begun to publish job offers for British citizens in Romanian firms.
Whilst the UK faces uncertainty over the possibility of a new wave of immigrants with its objections reaching the point of becoming offensive, Bulgaria and Romania have been both witty and creative in demanding respect for their citizens. (PL)
(Translated by: Rebecca Hayhurst)