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Crowded House

Local council elections in Romania at the weekend revealed that a one bedroomed appartement had more than 3,600 people registered as living there - and dozens of other addresses where the numbers supposedly staying there were over 1,000.

The figures exposed the extent to which people from Moldova are registering at fake addresses in order to qualify for a Romanian passport - and access to the EU job market.

Most use agents in Romania to do the paperwork - paying vast fees for the service which they earn by working at the same time abroad - but some are also in Romania organising the paperwork and when 70 of these from one address decided to vote this weekend alert poll officials raised the alarm.

But they were told that the Moldovans had not broken the law, nor had the flat owner that registered 3,600 tenants in the tiny 16.5 square metre studio apartment located in a former communist ghetto.

According to neighbours, all of the 3,600 are from Moldova and were registered by the owner of the flat as living there in order to get the Romanian ID cards. The same block of apartments hosts other derelict flats, with an average of 700 people per flat.

When local media visited they found that in reality the whole building has only three tenants, an unemployed couple and their child.

Despite the fact that ID trafficking is now big business, authorities say their hands are tied as the law allows the owner of a house to take in as many people as they want.

But it also backs up Romania's official policy of granting a large number of Moldovans the citizenship, that turns them in fully-fledged EU citizens.

Romania has even boasted of granting bogus citizenship to more than 250,000 immigrants from Moldova so they can travel to Britain and other EU countries to work.

Citizens from Moldova - not a member of the EU - are barred from free travel to Britain and claiming benefits or job rights, unlike their neighbours in Romania.

Recently Romanian president Traian Basescu told how his country has given passports to hundreds of thousands of Moldovans just so they can milk the EU system.

"Giving young Moldovans Romanian citizenship means we give them the right to study everywhere in the EU," he told local media.

"That also gives them the opportunity to work in countries where they will be better paid.

"It is a trend we know very well, as Romanians also go abroad to work. So we're giving the same chance to the citizens of the Republic of Moldova," he added.

Since 2007, Bucharest has been accused by EU member countries of granting citizenship to their communities in Moldova and the Ukraine.

The average monthly wage in the non-EU country, where unemployment is high, is just £100 and many Moldovans already work abroad, mostly as illegal immigrants in Europe's black economy.

The only requirement for a Moldovan to obtain legally the Romanian ID card is to have a stable residence in the country.

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