From shop sales assistants and bar tenders to bus drivers and lapdancers, Eastern Europeans have become a common feature of the UK workforce.

But unlike the migration from the Commonwealth in the 1960s, the influx from countries like Poland has attracted less attention.

More similar in colour and culture, the relative invisibility of Eastern European migrants is a strength when it comes to assimilating into Britain, according to Professor Thomas Diez, an expert in international relations at Birmingham University.

"There is a difference compared to the immigration wave of the 1960s in terms of the distance travelled so there is more of a connection," he said.

"You couldn't always identify a Pole when he walks past in the street. There is less obvious difference in culture and religion so the long term prospects of integration are greater because of how the British community see them."

Economic factors and a natural desire to be among people from their own part of the world inevitably creates pockets of immigrants and Birmingham's Eastern European community is no different, said Prof Diez.

However, he added: "The difference is in the invisibility. If you go to Small Heath or Sparkbrook you can see the difference in the community. If you go into an area that is settled by Poles, you won't."

Where tension can arise, however, said Prof Diez, is when the indigenous population perceive they are losing jobs to a new influx of people.

"If you are a self-employed builder and you find yourself overtaken by a Pole who your neighbour thinks does a fantastic job then you are not going to be very happy.

"That causes stress in local communities particularly where people have to compete with someone who does the job for less money.

"The danger is that some sections of the media will represent this as the average case when it is not. The typical case is someone who is quite valuable in the community."

As well as a willingness to work for less, Eastern European workers have also proved a ttractive to employers because of their skills base and reliability.

Britain has proved an obvious destination for them because in addition to opening its doors to EU accession countries before the rest of Europe, it also has freer employment laws.

"Somewhere like Italy may be nearer, but it is more difficult to get into," said Prof Diez.

"Britain has an open market and the capitalist structure allows people to move very quickly and employers to employ more quickly.

"This kind of open market is made for migrants who come here because they will have no difficulty getting a job."