By Luiza Ilie, photos by Luke MacGregor
Poverty and a lack of jobs have driven millions of Romanian workers abroad in search of a better life, helping fuel an anti-immigration backlash in wealthier Western countries that could hurt governments in upcoming European parliament elections. Reuters interviewed immigrants in the United Kingdom and the families of those left behind in Romania.
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The following are photos and scenes of some Romanians who have built a new life in the United Kingdom, and who mostly said they faced remarkably little discrimination despite the media frenzy that marked their arrival. The UK was one of six European Union countries that lifted its restrictions on migrants from Romania and Bulgaria at the start of the year.
Father Ioan Nazarcu
On Sundays, Romanian migrants in the UK fill up churches for Orthodox mass. At the biggest church in downtown London, up to 400 people fill the pews. They mostly dress modestly and look tired, holding onto toddlers while girls in pink sashes chase each other.
In Luton, 30 miles north of London, up to 150 adults and children show up for Father Ioan Nazarcu’s Orthodox mass on Sunday in a church rented by the hour from its Anglican owners. A lunch follows, with the entire congregation contributing food.
“Our community is made of young families and most of them have children,” said Father Nazarcu, who also serves as a social worker in a retirement home near Luton.