Romanian migrant is unlikely star in UK after EU labour restrictions lifted

Fears of 'invasion' of EU workers prove unfounded, with one man stealing limelight

PUBLISHED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 2:18am
UPDATED : Monday, 06 January, 2014, 2:18am


The British media had warned of a flood of new Bulgarian and Romanian migrants arriving on January 1, but judging by coverage in recent days, they appeared to have found only one.

Victor Spirescu, a 30-year-old Romanian, has become an unexpected star after flying into Luton airport, north of London, on the day European Union labour market restrictions on his nation and Bulgaria were lifted.

He has become the face of the new arrivals, featuring in national newspapers in Britain - including a double-page spread in The Times - appearing on Sky News and has been interviewed by the Romanian media back home.

The Daily Telegraph even travelled to Romania to interview his 19-year-old fiancee, Catalina Curcean, in what it called their "ramshackle" house outside the village of Pelisor in Transylvania.

A gaggle of journalists had gathered to greet Spirescu's flight on January 1, in hopes of a story about hordes of migrants arriving to seek work and possibly to abuse Britain's welfare system.

Media panic about the new influx and fears about "benefits tourism" had led the British government to rush through measures last month restricting access to unemployment hand-outs to new EU migrants.

But of the 140 passengers on board the 180-seat plane from Tirgu Mures in central Romania, most were already working in Britain and were returning from their Christmas holidays.

Spirescu was making his first trip to Britain to earn enough money to take home so he and his future wife could finish renovating their house.

He was greeted by television cameras and two members of parliament, who wanted to see for themselves the first day of unrestricted migration to Britain.

The media attention has continued all week - and although Spirescu appeared relaxed when he appeared on Sky News yesterday for a live panel discussion on immigration, he admitted it was a little weird.

"When I go in supermarkets, all the people look at me. I see a little girl, she said to her mum, 'Hey this is the guy off the television,'" he said.

He added that everyone had been "very friendly".