Migrants have a positive, not negative impact on Wales, says a senior Welsh church leader, rebutting scaremongering about Romania and Bulgaria.
The comments from the Rev Aled Edwards, chief executive of Cytûn (Churches Together in Wales), the official ecumenical body, came as restrictions on movement from these two Eastern European EU accession states ends today (1 January) amid virtual hysteria in some sections of the media.
Mr Edwards, who has worked extensively with asylum seekers and refugees in Wales, pointed out to Wales Online and the Western Mail that migrants had made an important contribution to Welsh life in a whole range of sectors.
He said: “I dread to think of a Wales without migrants. A number of areas would suffer. Academia is one such example, where there are a lot of students from other countries coming to Wales. Medicine is another. And, of course, the economy also benefits.
“There will, of course, be some issues around the Bulgarian and Romanian migration – but none of them are insurmountable," he said.
The churches and civic groups are seeking to work positively with local communities on accommodation, cultural and other matters involved in people movements and changing patterns of settlement.
The Cytûn CEO continued: “The real difficulty here is that the issue has become disproportionately political. That causes problems, particularly for migrants who come to this country with a view to work and make a contribution.
Concerning the fear and alarm whipped up by tabloid newspapers and some politicians, Mr Edwards added: “This xenophobia has to stop because the reality is, Wales has benefited hugely from migrant workers.”
New figures released by the UK Office for National Statistics (ONS), show that, after an initial surge, net migration from the EU8 (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) has decreased by almost two-thirds since 2007.
* Cytûn - Churches Together in Wales: http://www.cytun.org.uk/
* Rev Aled Edwards: http://www.alededwards.com
* More on migration from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/migration