I'm not the only one wondering what happened to the hoards of Bulgarians and Romanian migrants who were supposedly headed for British shores. Bulgarian journalist Nikolai Chavdarov also asks about the Missing migrants at the Guardian website:
Do you recall the live broadcasts from London airports on January 1? Reporters were desperately looking for hordes of Bulgarians and Romanians arriving in Britain as the tabloid press stirred up alarm about hundreds of hungry immigrants supposedly pouring from planes on the day the two countries joined the EU.
"How many more can Britain take?" asked Sir Andrew Green, chairman of Migration Watch UK, writing in the Daily Mail. "Are we about to see another wave of East European immigration? Will Bulgarian builders be hot on the heels of Polish plumbers?"
Two days later, the same paper reported fears that "a tidal wave of poorly skilled workers" from Bulgaria and Romania "could overwhelm Scotland's schools, NHS and council services".
Meanwhile, the Daily Star announced: "An army of 600,000 Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants will start entering Britain on Monday - and they won't even have to show a passport."
None of this actually happened. Officially, only 8,000 Romanian and Bulgarian migrants came to work in Britain in the first three months of this year and it is clear now that there will be no "tidal wave".
Why didn't they come? One reason is that at present Bulgaria and Romania are enjoying relative economic stability. The economic growth in both countries is still above the average compared to that of western European economies.
Also, the main wave of emigration from these countries had already occurred. In 18 years after the fall of the Berlin wall more 800,000 Bulgarians in their twenties, thirties and forties had gone. The shrinking population doesn't provide enough manpower to continue this trend now.
Besides all that, the UK is not the most preferred destination for Bulgarian workers with low qualifications - Greece, Spain and Italy are. The United States also provides opportunities for immigration. I remember a friend who told me that he would always prefer the United States. One of the main reasons was that when you say "I am from Bulgaria" in the United States, the next question usually is: "Where is that?" When you say "Europe", most Americans think "Ah, Europe - Paris", great. And no further questions asked.
...Bulgarian or Romanian beer is not going to be served in London pubs in the foreseeable future. Now is the time for the UK's home secretary to drop the restrictions on Romanian and Bulgarian migrants. This will send a clear message to rest of the EU member-states and make the labour market more flexible.
UPDATE: Even Madelaine Bunting has something sensible to say; see: The language of fear