Implications for the Justice and Home Affairs area of the accession of Turkey to the European Union - Home Affairs Committee Contents

4  Regular migration flows

Recent experiences of enlargement

89. EU membership entails the "four freedoms" of the single market: the free movement of goods, services, capital and people. However, in the case of enlargements since 2004, Member States have been given the option of imposing temporary restrictions on the free movement of workers from the acceding countries for up to seven years. Most EU countries applied transitional arrangements for the so-called A8 countries[151] from 2004, with the exception of Ireland, Sweden and the UK, although all three restricted the access that East European workers would have to their social security. The UK also required them to register with the Worker Registration Scheme until they could demonstrate that had completed 12 months of employment with no more than 30 days' break.

90. Following the accession of the A8 countries to the EU in 2004, a significantly higher number of A8 nationals migrated to the UK than was expected by the UK Government. In 2003, the Home Office had estimated that net inflows of A8 nationals would range between 5,000 and 13,000 annually until 2010. It assumed that large numbers would head for Germany as per traditional migration patterns, and argued that even if Germany placed restrictions on entry, any diversion to the UK would be small.[152]

91. In fact, there were around 200,000 annual registrations on the UK's Worker Registration Scheme between 2004 and 2007, excluding the self-employed and those who required to register but did not (estimated to stand at between a quarter and a third of A8 migrants). The number of successful applicants to the Worker Registration Scheme declined after 2007 to 108,920 in 2009, and the think tank the Institute for Public Policy Reform (IPPR) suggested that around half of A8 migrants who had arrived since May 2004 had left the UK by the end of 2007.[153] However, immigration control statistics from the Home Office published earlier this year show a small increase again in 2010 to 116,760.[154] As of May 2011, EU Member States may no longer apply transitional arrangements for the A8 under the terms of the Treaty of Accession.

92. Analysis by the Institute for Public Policy Reform identified the following reasons why so many more A8 nationals came to the UK than predicted:

  • The widespread restrictions imposed by other EU Member States;
  • The predictions were based on permanent migration flows, whereas in fact much of the A8 migration has been temporary;
  • Around 30-40% of those who registered to work in the UK after accession were already working in the UK (often illegally); and
  • The strength of the UK economy at the time.[155]

93. Earlier experiences of enlargement tell a different story, however. Similar concerns were expressed in relation to expected labour migration from Spain and Portugal (which acceded in 1986) owing to factors such as the high income differentials and the high unemployment and propensity to migrate in these Southern European countries, together with the geographical proximity and the long tradition of emigration towards North-western Europe; transitional arrangements were imposed as a result. In 1991, the last year of its transition period, the number of Spanish citizens living in the rest of the European Community was around 474,000, an actual reduction from the figure of 495,000 at the time of Spanish accession. By 1997, the stock had decreased slightly further to around 470,000. The stock of Portuguese citizens in the rest of the European Community at the time of its accession was around 825,000. In 1991, the last year of the transition period, it was around 855,000, and in 1997 it was around 910,000, equivalent to an annual average of around 7,700 immigrants over a period of 11 years. These numbers suggest that emigration from the Southern accession countries was negligible, even after the end of their transition periods.[156] It may be that a history of regimes which restricted emigration in the A8 countries may have been a key factor in encouraging subsequent high emigration rates.

94. In response to the high levels of immigration from the A8 countries, the UK Government imposed restrictive transitional arrangements on nationals from Romania and Bulgaria after these states acceded to the EU in 2007. Access for low-skilled workers is quota-limited and currently restricted to schemes for the agricultural sector. Once Romanian and Bulgarian nationals have been working legally in the UK for 12 months without a break, however, they have full rights of movement. In total:

  • 8,060 Seasonal Agricultural Workers work cards were issued to Romanian and Bulgarian nationals in 2007, 16,460 in 2008, 20,180 in 2009 and 17,150 in 2010;
  • 3,795 accession worker cards (applicable for those undertaking a limited number of professions, or those who have obtained a work permit via their employer) were approved in 2007, 2,775 in 2008, 2,095 in 2009 and 2,250 in 2010; and
  • 29,745 applications for registration certificates (for self-employed workers, family members, highly skilled workers) were approved in 2007, 19,565 in 2008, 21,480 in 2009 and 19,295 in 2010.[157]

A8 and Romanian and Bulgarian migrants have access to child benefits and tax credits as soon as they start working (although they lose this entitlement if they become unemployed within the first 12 months) and can claim income-related benefits after having been in employment for one year.[158]

Current levels of migration from Turkey to the EU

95. There are 2.481 million Turkish passport holders in the EU, 146,000 of whom are refugees.[159] In terms of their destination, Dr Düvell told us that:

The overwhelming majority of all the Turks in the EU live in Germany; significant numbers in Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands, also in France. The UK is one of the least popular destinations among Turkish migrants. Half of the Turkish migrants in the UK originate from Cyprus, so there is a colonial Cypriot link. Some of them have mixed marriages, Greek-Turkish, so it is very difficult. Half of the people in the UK you talk about are actually the Cypriots.[160]

96. According to the Home Office, there are approximately 150,000 Turkish nationals in the UK at present, of a total of about 500,000 people of Turkish origin in the UK.[161] Of the 178,000 Turkish nationals given leave to enter the UK in 2009, some 66,300 were returnees after temporary absence abroad, 64,700 were visitors, 28,300 were business visitors, 9,755 were tier 4 students plus dependents, 1,145 came for employment and 945 for family purposes.[162] Turkish asylum applications dropped from 3,990 in 2000 to 185 in 2009. In 2009, 985 enforcement actions (removals and voluntary returns) were initiated, 40% of which related to asylum cases.[163] Dr Düvell said:

If we look at the current level of migration in particular from Turkey to the UK, student migration, family reunification, it is very, very low. I just can't see much of a network effect, which seems plausible to assume; but it doesn't seem to happen so far.[164]

97. According to Dr Düvell, long-term emigration from Turkey to the European Union has dropped "significantly" to "probably below 50,000 every year".[165] Furthermore, there has been negative migration from Germany to Turkey over the past four years in the region of 7,000 or 8,000 per year. This is probably linked to the economic downturn in Europe, but Dr Düvell was "confident" that the trend was set to continue, given the opportunities in the Turkish labour market for both regular and irregular migrants, in particular for the highly skilled.[166]

Transitional arrangements for Turkey?

98. The European Commission's Recommendation on Turkey's progress towards accession, published in October 2004, as well as the Negotiating Framework of 2005, mentioned the possibility of applying "long transition periods" and "permanent safeguard clauses" to Turkish nationals to avoid disturbance in the EU labour market.[167] The UK Government supports such measures in principle; the Home Office told us:

Although Turkey's negotiations have not yet reached this stage, Her Majesty's Government has made a commitment to apply effective transitional controls as a matter of course for all new Member States.

As accession negotiations with Turkey progress, it will be necessary to assess the potential for migration between Turkey and EU Member States to inform the consideration of what type of transitional controls will be appropriate. However, it would be premature to attempt to assess the impact of opening EU labour markets before negotiations on the subject have started, especially as the economic conditions in the EU and Turkey may change in the future.[168]

99. When asked about the lessons that had been learnt from previous enlargements, the Minister for Immigration told us:

The key lesson is that we should impose the transitional controls that are allowed in the accession treaties. That was the huge mistake in 2004 when the A8 countries came in and it was a mistake that was compounded by the fact that very few other countries made that mistake ... we have made it clear that under any future accession treaty we will apply the transitional controls that will be allowed.[169]

He considered that the transitional controls applied to Romania and Bulgaria have been "by and large pretty effective" and therefore the Government would want "at least [to] replicate that" for future accessions.[170]

100. It is very difficult to estimate the likely scale of migration from Turkey, should it accede, particularly given that accession is unlikely to happen for many years. According to Dr Düvell:

It is not enough to look at statistics and figures. We have to go to the sending country, conduct large-scale surveys about people's aspirations, wishes, perceptions, and look at it from the sending country perspective as well and that would take, research-wise, two to three years in order to generate meaningful results. I am not aware that we have done that with the accession countries.[171]

An impact study carried out by the European Commission in 2004 reported that forecasts of long-term immigration from Turkey to the then-15 countries of the EU by 2025-30 (based largely on expected income differences) ranged between 0.5 and 4.4 million.[172] The Centre for European Policy Studies published a study later in 2004, which investigated these various forecasts and placed the figure for net migration at between 1 and 2.1 million between 2004 and 2030, "foreseeing a successful accession period with high growth and free labour mobility starting 2015."[173]

101. When asked for his assessment on the likely numbers of Turkish nationals who would take advantage of free movement following accession to the EU, the UK Minister for Immigration stated that:

It would be impossible to make any kind of realistic assessment at the moment because we don't know any of the basic facts. We don't know what the accession treaty would allow in terms of a transitional period. We don't know where, if it happened, Turks would prefer to go—they have obviously got a greater historic relationship with Germany than with this country—and perhaps most counter-intuitively for a British audience, if you like, you have to look at the way the Turkish economy is going ... I have seen suggestions that the Turkish economy will be growing faster than the Indian economy ... Given all the uncertainties, particularly about the length of time it might take before a single Turk came into Europe under free movement, it really is impossible to put any sensible number on it at the moment.[174]

102. Dr Düvell was hesitant about giving a figure, for similar reasons, but eventually estimated an annual figure for out migration of 60,000-70,000. This estimate was made on the basis that:

  • Emigration from Turkey to Europe, including clandestine migration, has dropped "significantly" to below 50,000 every year;
  • Despite an underperforming labour market, there is significant internal migration from the east of Turkey where population is growing to the western part where the population is ageing and most of these migrants are absorbed by the labour market, making it unlikely they would need to seek work elsewhere; and
  • There would be a likely increase in the number of young people and students travelling to the EU, which would therefore increase the current figure of 50,000.

He emphasised that this figure only accounted for out migration, not taking into account return migration and predicted that people of the following nationalities would be likely to leave the European Union to go to Turkey: Moldovans, Bulgarians, Romanians, Syrians, Iranians, nationals from all the northern Mediterranean coastal countries, Morocco and Algeria.[175]

103. In Dr Düvell's opinion, the Turkish situation was not comparable with that of the A8 countries:

I always found these Polish earlier estimates ridiculously low, to be honest, because there was the migration industry, there was the migration culture, there was the urge of the young generation of Poles to leave the country and go somewhere else, and terribly underestimated was the fact that only three countries opened up for A8 migration: UK, Sweden and Ireland.

He considered that the number of migrants coming to the UK would significantly depend on the policies and decisions made by the other Member States, as has previously been the case.[176]

104. Migration Watch, on the other hand, queried Dr Düvell's estimates on the basis of:

  • The "large gap in living standards" between Turkey and the UK, which would make the UK an attractive destination (as in the case of Poland, the UK is roughly 2.5 times as wealthy as Turkey);
  • The size and youth of the Turkish population, currently 76 million and projected to increase to 97.4 million in 2050, some 12 million of whom will be in the age group 15-24;
  • The existing Turkish community present in the UK; and
  • The "pull factor" of benefits.

Migration Watch cautioned that the UK Government cannot:

assume that economic growth in Turkey, even it is occurs, will be such as to keep Turkish workers at home. We could well find a situation in which young Turks migrated to Europe for wages several times higher than are available in Turkey, while workers from neighbouring countries replace them in their previous occupations. Again, we are seeing this with Ukrainians moving into Poland to replace some of those who have gone to Western Europe.[177]

105. It is very difficult to estimate the number of Turkish nationals who would be likely to take advantage of free movement within the EU, particularly given that the date of Turkish accession is unclear; we heard very different views accordingly. Available forecasts have put the figure at anywhere between 0.5 and 4.4 million arrivals between the date of accession and 2030. The scale of migration will depend upon a combination of complex factors, including the relative economic conditions in EU Member States and in Turkey at the time of accession, and the terms of the accession treaty and how these are applied throughout the Union. The picture is complicated by conflicting precedents from previous comparable enlargements: increased migration from Spain and Portugal was negligible following their accession in 1986, but at least 200,000 migrants arrived each year in the UK alone following the accession of the A8 countries between 2004 and 2007, despite official predictions of an annual flow of between 5,000 and 13,000.

106. We accept that both legal and clandestine migration from Turkey to the EU have declined in recent years to a combined annual figure of below 50,000, and that there is also evidence of negative migration from the EU to Turkey, particularly from Germany. However, it is also the case that population trends and the gap in living standards could make easier migration to the EU an attractive option for Turkish nationals. In terms of destinations within the EU, it is perhaps likely that Turks would favour Germany, Austria, the Netherlands and France, who have the largest Turkish communities in the Union, but previous experience has shown that such assumptions may prove ill-founded.

107. All of which leads us to be cautious about the prospect of allowing Turkish citizens full freedom of movement. We note the success of transitional arrangements in controlling levels of migration to many EU countries, in the case of the A8 Member States; and to the UK, in the case of Bulgarian and Romanian nationals following their accession in 2007. We therefore welcome and fully support the Government's commitment to applying "effective transitional controls as a matter of course" for all new Member States. While we appreciate that a number of unknown factors make this analysis difficult, and that the Home Office is no doubt wary of attracting criticism for inaccurate estimates in the future, we are concerned that no impact analysis of Turkish accession for future migration trends has yet been carried out. Accordingly, we recommend that the Home Office undertakes this piece of work now and updates it as circumstances change.

151   The Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. Back

152   Home Office, The Impact of EU Enlargement on Migration Flows, Online Report 25/03, 2003 Back

153   IPPR, Floodgates or Turnstiles? Post-EU enlargement migration flows to (and from) the UK, April 2008, p 18; Home Office, Control of Immigration: Quarterly Statistical Summary, February 2011, p 29 Back

154   Home Office, Control over Immigration: Quarterly Statistics Summary, United Kingdom, October-December 2010,February 2011, p 33 Back

155   IPPR, Floodgates or Turnstiles? Post-EU enlargement migration flows to (and from) the UK, April 2008, p 16 Back

156   Home Office, The impact of EU enlargement on migration flows, Online Report 25/03, 2003 Back

157   Home Office, Control over Immigration: Quarterly Statistical Summary, February 2011, p 34. Initially, Romanian and Bulgarian workers could also work in the food processing sector. Back

158   IPPR, Floodgates or Turnstiles? Post-EU enlargement migration flows to (and from) the UK, April 2008 Back

159   Ev 43 [Dr Düvell] Back

160   Q 55 Back

161   Ev 34 Back

162   Home Office data, cited in Ev 43 [Dr Düvell] Back

163   Ibid Back

164   Q 54 Back

165   Q 40 Back

166   Qq 45-6, 75 Back

167   European Commission, Negotiating Framework, October 2005; Recommendation of the European Commission on Turkey's progress towards accession, October 2004 Back

168   Ev 34-5 Back

169   Q 117 Back

170   Q 120 Back

171   Q 74 Back

172   European Commission, Issues Arising from Turkey's Membership Perspective, 2004 Back

173   Centre for European Policy Studies, Growth and Immigration Scenarios for Turkey and the EU, December 2004 Back

174   Q 119 Back

175   Qq 40-43; 76 Back

176   Q 73 Back

177   Ev 36-7 Back

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Prepared 1 August 2011