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Sinn Féin MEP expresses concern over EU's two tier attitude to free movement of migrant workers

24 October, 2006

Sinn Féin National Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald MEP has today expressed her concerns regarding EU Member State attitudes to the free movement of migrant workers across the European Union. Ms McDonald said that a two tier system was in operation where 'some countries have given free access to migrant workers while others had firmly closed the doors shut'.

Ms McDonald made her comments after both the British and Irish Governments announced restrictions on workers coming to Ireland and Britain from both Bulgaria and Romania when they join the EU in January 2007.

Speaking today Ms McDonald said:

"Sinn Féin is in favour of the free movement of people across the European Union. We recognised that Ireland was amongst just three states to open up their labour markets to workers from the new member states in 2004 - and we welcomed that, whilst the other 12 states decided to apply certain restrictions to the recently joined countries.

"However, a two tier system is now firmly in operation where some countries have given free access to migrant workers while others have firmly slammed the doors shut. The European Union has to decide whether or not it is an area of free movement for migrant workers or not. We cannot have an EU where some new states are admitted on the basis of a second class membership.

"Those who continue to place restrictions on the free movement of workers, make it extremely difficult for those countries that have not placed similar restrictions on workers, to sustain their present policy - and this is regrettable. What is required is for the European Union to collectively demonstrate its support for migrant workers, work to end exploitation and free movement across borders.

"Sinn Féin would vigorously oppose any attempts by the government to treat Bulgarian and Romanian workers in a similar manner to non EU workers where they would be tied to specific employers through a permit system. Instances of abuse by unscrupulous employers, who can effectively hold employees to ransom, are not a new phenomenon.

"I want to take this opportunity to call upon the Government to continue to advocate the free movement of people at European level, whilst at the same time protecting the rights and conditions of Irish workers." ENDS

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