David Cameron talks tough over European migrants' benefits


David Cameron: ''It is too easy to be an illegal migrant in Britain''

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Europeans will have to prove they are "genuinely seeking employment" to claim UK jobless benefits for more than six months, David Cameron has said.

The prime minister said it was among measures to ensure people came to the UK "for the right reasons" after it became a "soft touch" under Labour.

But Bulgaria's UK ambassador said the UK's rules were already seen in his country as "very restrictive".

Labour warned against an "arms race on immigration rhetoric".

Migrants from the European Economic Area - the EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway - currently have to show they have a "reasonable chance" of finding a job to receive unemployment benefit for more than six months.

Downing Street said they would now face a more rigorous test to assess whether they had a "realistic prospect" of getting a job, with the ability to speak English one of the criteria.


In his speech in Ipswich, the prime minister said there were "concerns, deeply held, that some people might be able to come and take advantage of our generosity without making a proper contribution to our country".

Immigrants have been coming to Ipswich for centuries. But where once they came for work and trade, David Cameron thinks too many are coming now to claim benefits.

That is why he came to Suffolk today to set out his latest plans to dissuade all but what he called the "brightest and the best" migrants from coming here.

He and his fellow party leaders are now in a competition to see which of them can come up with the toughest policy on immigration.

The aim is to reassure voters and prevent too many of them backing UKIP.

The problem for Mr Cameron is that many of his proposals tackle only part of the problem.

The truth is that his room for manoeuvre is limited by EU freedom of movement rules.

There is also the risk that in this immigration arms race, the three largest parties cancel each out and the public end up more confused than reassured.

"These concerns are not just legitimate; they are right and it is a fundamental duty of every mainstream politician to address them."

No 10 was unable to give any figures on the scale, cost and numbers of so-called benefit tourists, although Department for Work and Pensions figures suggest 17% of working-age UK nationals claim a benefit, compared with 7% of working age non-UK nationals.

Transitional restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians working in the UK are due to be relaxed next year.

Since the countries joined the European Union in 2007, their peoples have been able to come to the UK to live and have been able to take jobs either via a work permit system, or by being self-employed, or in a variety of jobs from domestic work to seasonal agriculture.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in July 2012 there were 94,000 Romanians and 47,000 Bulgarians resident in the UK.

The end of existing controls will give those who want to work in the UK the same rights for welfare and NHS care as foreign nationals from the other 24 EU nations.

Eastern European migrants and employment, 2004-09

A8 country* migrants Native population

*Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovenia, Slovakia, and Poland. Note: Employment rate refers to % of working-age population. Source: Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration





Employment rate





Claiming benefits or tax credits





In social housing





Mr Cameron said: "We can't stop these full transitional controls coming to an end. But what we can do, is make sure that those who come here from the EU - or further afield - do so for the right reasons: that they come here because they want to contribute to our country, not because they are drawn by the attractiveness of our benefits system, or by the opportunity to use our public services."

The prime minister added: "Under the last government immigration in this country was too high and out of control. Put simply, Britain was a soft touch."

He said immigrants in future would be "subject to full conditionality and work search requirements and you will have to show you are genuinely seeking employment - if you fail that test, you will lose your benefit".

He said: "And as a migrant, we're only going to give you six months to be a jobseeker. After that benefits will be cut off unless you really can prove not just that you are genuinely seeking employment but also that you have a genuine chance of getting a job.

"We're going to make that assessment a real and robust one and, yes, it's going to include whether your ability to speak English is a barrier to work."

'Very concerned'

Bulgaria's London ambassador, Konstantin Dimitrov, told the BBC that trying to put figures on the number of his compatriots who might migrate when restrictions are eased was "irrelevant", as "most of the Bulgarians who wanted to find work in the UK have already done so".

He added: "Contrary to the prevalent opinion here about the UK being seen as a soft touch, your system is seen by Bulgarians as very restrictive."

Mr Dimitrov also said: "Luckily Bulgarians don't believe in sham marriages... Nobody need worry about a possible influx of undesirable Bulgarians."

In his speech, Mr Cameron said changes to health care would be introduced, with the UK getting "better" at "reciprocal charging", charging foreign governments for treatment provided to non-working overseas nationals.

Nigel Farage, leader of UKIP: "We should not open up borders unconditionally to Romanians and Bulgarians"

He added that action was being taken to tackle illegal immigration, including making private landlords responsible for making sure their tenants were legally in the UK - and facing fines if it turned out they were not.

Immigrants would be kept off council house waiting lists in England for at least two years, under plans for councils to introduce a residency test.

Councils can already set their own criteria, but many do not.

Mr Cameron said: "We can not have a culture of something for nothing. New migrants should not expect to be given a home on arrival."

But the Local Government Association said it was "very concerned", and councils should decide how to meet housing need.

Jonathan Portes, director of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, told the BBC that people "coming from outside the UK, and especially people coming from outside the European Union, are significantly less likely than British nationals, and people born here, to claim benefits".

For Labour, shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "It's right to have conditions on benefits and public services for immigration. Most people who come to this country work and contribute, but there are restrictions because the system needs to be fair and seen to be fair.

"However, the government's proposals announced today seem to be very confused and are unravelling. And at the same time there was no significant action to tackle illegal immigration or labour market exploitation which we know have been getting worse.

"We won't support an arms race on immigration rhetoric, we want practical and sensible measures that make the system work."

On Friday Lib Dem leader and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg gave a speech on immigration in which he called for £1,000 deposits to be demanded for visa applicants from "high-risk" countries, with the money repaid when they leave the UK.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    i claimed job seekers for the first time in my life year after working for over 30 years i was told that i could claim it for 6 months. i am a British National since birth-I've always worked and my children are over 18. I have never claimed a penny.Will it be like now, when you have to prove your looking for a job when they don't even bother getting out of bed. I can really see this working - NOT

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    Camer-loony stop stating the status quo as if it is New Policy!
    I am disgusted by you, all politicians and media espousing Xenophobia!

    I just had to listen to one of yours state that labour changed the law in 2003 so that a person who stays in UK for 14 years - can normalise stay, fact is Cons in 1981 Nat Act had 7 years, Labour doubled it in 2003.
    You lack policies - so resort to Xenophobia

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    If he wants to be tough - why not only let them in if they have a job and can support themselves? No job, no entry.

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    looks like an excuse to increase the number of government non-jobs

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    It makes sense to suggest that incomers actually make the effort to learn English before they come here, otherwise they are never going to be able to integrate into society properly.

    And with so many homeless people in the UK why don't we do more to get them rehomed and into work instead of paying benefits to people who come here just because the UK is a soft touch ? Charity begins at home.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    It is too late the public believes immigration to be bad for the British man who wants work with a living wage. Too many at once and setting up their own ghettos has made the numbers prominent. Too many on the housing lists for homes that are not available, and having ones purse pinched by an E/ European immigrant/visitor has built up this perception. I am not racist I am an observer of society.

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Why is this limited to only EU countries? What about the rest of the world particularly Africa, India and the Arab countries!

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    DC's creating a false opposition, for populist grandstanding.

    There's nothing radical, audacious or courageous about his proposals, that any other party would not have been able to consider equally in the light of recent EU developments.

    Mitterand's socialist France had much tougher rules, for instance, so it's not a general left/right point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    l understand a lot of these people seem to come from Lesbia. Is it part of the E.C.?? (As l cannot find it in my atlas)

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Thought the Tories were introducing a UNIVERSAL credit scheme? So which of the Countries are not part of the Tory Universe then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    What the unemployment rate amoung Foreign Nationals is in the UK is irrelevant. Foreigners DON'T bring their jobs with them, they TAKE a UK Job, and whichever way you want to dress it up with your Globalisation Glasses on, it SHOULD BE A BRITISH WORKERS JOB too! Let's play FAIR on BENIFITS, list ALL the Benifits Brits get in Foriegn Countries on arrival and see what they offer shall we?..

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    Oh so the first 6 months benefits is FOC, give over Cameron shut the doors and throw out all illegals free up the schools, hospitals, housing lists and job centres not next year NOW!.

    Simply we have had enough, and you risk it all to maintain the staus quo with a few half measures.
    Your inaction feeds into an increasing hatred for immigrants from most reasonable people.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    #53 Owlsoflaughter

    hi5 bro!

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Until we have a Europe wide solution to EU migration and what they can expect from the countries they want to work or live in then there will be no real change. As for Migrants outside the EU unless you can bring a valuable skill or trade than the answer should always be a no, we have unemployed young people both Black, white and Asian who should be trained and employed first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    About 10-15 years too late.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    Notice he is not talking about the EU!! which is one of the cause of the problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    More hot air from a well past sell by date PM.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    As we are in the habit (regrettably) of mimicking everything that the USA does, how about adopting their approach to non USA citizens who want to enter, let alone work, in the USA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    Migrants are always treated like a second class citizens in this country, whether you’re a cleaner or the professor at the university specially.
    It is insulting and quite frankly threatening words by PM towards the migrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Am I missing something here? All benefit claimants in this country, East European or not, have to prove that they are 'genuinely seeking employment'. So what's the difference? Another load of useless rhetoric from the Master of useless rhetoric, David Cameron.


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