Britons' concern over an influx of immigrants is a mounting theme in the run-up to local elections in May
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne wrote last week that the country has been "deeply unsettled" by the more than half million east Europeans, largely from Poland, who have arrived over the past three years.
82 percent of 2,254 Britons questioned in a recent YouGov poll said the government does not have immigration under control. Only 31 percent said immigrants were good for the national economy.
Their views are reflected in newspapers publishing a steady flow of articles calling for tighter restrictions.
"We must regain control of our borders -- now," read a recent opinion column in the Daily Telegraph. "Immigrant baby boom: NHS (National Health Service) under strain from east Europeans," was a headline last month in the Daily Mail.
Public attitudes to immigration are hardening in Britain:
The YouGov poll in January showed that 63 percent of Britons strongly agreed there should be limits to the number of immigrants allowed in each year: up from half of respondents 10 months earlier.
Such discontent is potentially fruitful for the British National Party. The far-right party with an anti-immigrant message is fielding a record 827 candidates in the May 3 local elections, more than double its roster last year.
Although the BNP is still a fringe actor in British politics, the mainstream is also raising questions.
Immigration minister Byrne wrote: "It's not racist for (the governing labor Party) to debate immigration; it's the real world -- the world in which the people we represent live."
The government is planning a points system to manage migration from non-EU countries. Limits were placed on the number of workers allowed in from new EU members Romania and Bulgaria -- a shift from the open-door policy for Poland and other east European nations in 2004.
And even the businesses that welcome migrant workers worry that dependence on imported skills might mean Britain neglects the skill levels of its own children.
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