‘In January, the only thing left will be the goat’: Romanian father-of-seven’s boast as mayor says half the population of his villages are on their way to Britain for the higher salaries and generous benefits
- Remus Neda, 37, is heading for the UK to take advantage of state handouts
- He makes most of his money by begging on the streets of Paris
- People in the villages of Berini and Uliuc live in abject poverty
- Are forced to sleep in cramped clay huts surrounded 20 of their relatives
- Mayor Koller Gabriel-Adrian claimed villagers were leaving ‘because they do not have anything here’
The mayor of two Romanian villages has claimed that up to half of their residents will move to the UK when restrictions are lifted in January.
Koller Gabriel-Adrian said he believed ‘50 per cent’ of the 1,100 people in poverty-stricken Berini and Uliuc could travel to Britain in search of higher salaries – and the generous welfare system – in the New Year.
Many have already moved to France, Italy and Spain, but the mayor said the UK would soon become a more attractive destination, with ‘better conditions’, when the borders are relaxed.
Among those keen to move are 170 Roma who live in abject poverty on the outskirts of the villages, with no running water in their homes and as many as 20 people sharing a three-room house.
One of them, father-of-seven Remus Neda, 37, said he hoped to move to Britain after learning that he could be eligible for housing benefits and NHS care.
Pointing to a shaggy brown and white goat, tethered to an outhouse, he said: ‘In January, the only thing left in the village will be the goat.’
Mr Gabriel-Adrian, the mayor of Sacosu Turcesc, which encompasses these villages, said: ‘I think it is possible that half of the people in Berini and Uliuc, the Romanian and Roma people, will go to the UK next year.
‘In particular, the young people will go, because they don’t have anything here. They will go to work in agriculture and construction, but also for the benefits.
‘My advice to Britain would be not to give people everything. You should take care because, if everybody goes to the UK, what will you do? Can you afford it?
‘People do not have big salaries here and will obviously be interested in the salaries and the benefits in England.’
Reflecting growing tensions in Romania, he singled out the Roma community as the most likely to move, saying: ‘It is not a bad thing for us that they want to go somewhere else in Europe.
‘They will go to the UK, get the benefits and maybe come back home with the money, because it is worth more here.’
The Roma in Berini live in a cluster of clay huts and survive on cabbages, potatoes and corn, which they grow themselves, as well as meagre state benefits.
From January 1, all 29million people living in Romania and Bulgaria will be given the same rights as other EU citizens to live and work in the UK.
Restrictions on access to benefits and NHS care – imposed when they joined the EU in 2007 – are being lifted.
Romanian TV news station Digi24 has suggested that Roma in Uliuc and Berini, near the Hungarian border, are ‘just waiting to make the journey to the UK’.
Some of them have already been ‘voluntarily expelled’ from France – and given free flights home – in a clampdown on illegal camps.
More than 10,000 Roma from Romania and Bulgaria are repatriated from France every year.
Remus Neda is one of the wealthiest Roma living in Berini because, he said, he makes ‘good money’ begging on the streets of Paris for four months of every year.
His family including several grandchildren live in a ramshackle brick house, rather than a clay hut, but they are still very poor and hope to relocate to London soon. Speaking through a translator, Mr Neda said: ‘We have heard on the television that the rules are changing. It will be a very good opportunity for us.
‘If we can get a house for all the 12 people in my family then it will be a much better way of living.
‘My brother-in-law is already working in London in construction. We will wait for a call from him to say it is true that we can get benefits and then we will go the next day. I will get a job in construction on the black market, or as an employee.’
But it is the world-renowned NHS, and not just the housing benefits, that he seeks in Britain.
His 15-month-old son Simon still bears the scars of heart surgery and Mr Neda must pay for his on-going medication in Romania. ‘In the UK, it would be better because we would have free medical care,’ he said.
Another Roma villager, Daniela Neda, 45, who is not related to Remus, also plans to move to the UK when the restrictions are lifted.
Until last summer, she was living illegally in a caravan in Paris, and made €15 a day from begging, but the French authorities paid for her flight home.
Miss Neda, who lives in a tiny clay home with her five-year-old daughter Ionela and 18 relatives, said: ‘We have heard it will soon be easier for us to go abroad and get the benefits from countries like UK.
‘We only receive 40 leu (£9) per child every month here. It is not enough to raise a child.’
Rudko Kawczynski, president of the European Roma Travellers’ Forum, dismissed concerns that Romanians and Bulgarians will claim benefits when the borders rules are relaxed.
Speaking on a video on the Council of Europe website, he said: ‘Nobody can come to a country, like France or Germany, and say, “Here I am. Please, I want social welfare.” It’s stupid, it’s nonsense.