NEW figures show the number of Eastern Europeans living in Gloucestershire increased by more than six times over the course of a decade.
Figures from the 2011 census show that approximately 9,300 Eastern Europeans were living in the county, compared with around 1,500 in 2001.
The amount accounted for almost half of the 20,000 EU migrants who had set up home in the county, the equivalent of about three per cent of the county’s population.
Official figures released this week are expected to show tens of thousands of Eastern European migrants have moved to Britain for work in the past year.
Councillor Paul James, leader of Gloucester City Council, pictured, said: “There are a lot of Eastern Europeans who come here to work hard and fill gaps across our jobs market. Gloucestershire is a welcoming place, and people from India, the West Indies and Ukraine are valued parts of our community.
“However, some people feel that this country has seen too much immigration over the past decade but they welcome people so long as they don’t take the taxpayer for a ride.”
University of Oxford economists predict the figures will show that around 30,000 more Romanians and Bulgarians were working in the UK in the first three months of this year than during the same period in 2013.
Raz Bavlovcak, a 23-year-old chef who is also from Slovakia, has lived in Gloucester for four years.
He said: “My friend came here and he found me a job, so that is why I am here. I like the people here, they are really friendly. I like living in a small city like Gloucester as there are better jobs and a better quality of life here than at home.”
Slovak Katarina Rabekova, 30, came to England to live with her partner Tomas Teslicka, 30, in 2006. Ms Rabekova, who shops at Czechland in Northgate Street, said: “I absolutely love England and that is why I moved here. Love brought me here. Tomas bought me a plane ticket and that was it. People don’t think so badly about immigrants than what they used to.”
Bartosz Nowicki, who runs Polish community website Polonia Gloucester, said Gloucestershire is a very welcoming place for the Polish community.
He said: “In England you can cope even if you are on a basic wage, which isn’t always possible in Poland. British people are very friendly.”
But Mike Smith, chairman of UKIP’s Gloucester city branch, pictured, said: “With rising immigration we’ve had to build many more houses and now we’re having to build on green belts.
“We are also seeing public services being put under increasing pressure, particularly NHS accident and emergency departments.
“It has also meant that there is more traffic on the roads and it’s had an effect on local people being able to get jobs and it’s pushing down wages.”