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 203.

    Its part and parcel of capitalism that as the world economy becomes global people will move around to look for where they can gain the most for their labour, people come to the UK and look for jobs as long as we are in the EU we support them, any other country would to us, if we hate it so much why not leave. Also its great DC having a go at immigrants despite the fact he is descended from one

  • rate this

    Comment number 202.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but aren't these measures he mentions already in place?

    Will he ever tackle the rise in the housing benefit bill because of private rent costs? or will he blame it on everything else.

    Someone one day needs to come out with how much we as the taxpayer is paying for immigrants and others living in private housing costs thousands per week, rent costs need to change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 201.

    If you have parasites in your own home, what would you do? Of course,you get rid of them. There's no ifs or buts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 200.

    David aims for votes in the right spectrum of voters by toughening the unemloyment benefits for immigrants.

    He goes for populistic rhetorics to gain votes

  • rate this

    Comment number 199.

    Trying to appeal to the general murmurings of the great unwashed!

    This is too little to late, and just hollow words. Anything that comes from this will be implemented in 2016 on the basis that the Tory twonks get re-elected.

    Lets face it, anything ANY of the Political Parties start spouting now is them setting out their manifesto for 2015.

  • rate this

    Comment number 198.

    Not one thing this guy says can be belived. Most of the "measures" announced today are in place anyway. He's running scared of UKIP, that's pretty obvious. He says "we are better off in the EU". It's the EU that stops us controlling our own borders. Cameron is as much to blame for unlimited immigration as the other lot. There isn't a fag paper between the lot of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 197.

    As Cameron let slip at PMQ last December 'We are raising more money for the rich!' - his exact words, and he told the truth for once, Here he's making a big show of toughness, nearly three years into his misgovernment. Desperate Dave on his way to oblivion!

  • rate this

    Comment number 196.

    As an EU-ntaional, this is kinda offensive. When I came to this country, I found a job and never been without one longer than 2 months, never claimed for benefits or ever will. You go an try making a Briton do a job that immigrants do. Surely goverment should control spending, benefit system abuse and illegal immigration, but stop treating all immigrants like dirt

  • rate this

    Comment number 195.

    They've started telling people what they want to hear so they'll vote for them at the next election. The others are doing it as well. Wish they'd stop blaming each other and actually sort the current problems rather than keep telling us what they are going to do.

  • rate this

    Comment number 194.

    I seem to remember that Cameron said that ex-Servicemen would receive priority treatment on Council Housing lists and this never ever happened. This is all spin now for the May elections because the Tory people are so worried about being wiped out by UKIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 193.

    Trust Cameron to come up with a route that doesn't work and will be impossible to monitor. Its actually real easy. UK benefits are for UK citizens. Want benefits? Get a job, pay your taxes, behave like you want to be British and you get to be a citizen in a few years. Till then, no benefits, no social housing. Its really very simple if you actually want to do it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 192.

    Thank Goodness the British people have waited many years for this to happen. It should also apply to British Citizens who milk the system and who have never paid NI contributions. We as taxpayers, myself as a senior citizen, has had to go back to work to make ends meet. If I can do it then younger people should be able to, there are jobs out there if you are willing to work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 191.

    Immigration is all parties new hot potato to win votes. It is toothless without a EU spread agreement on movement of people.

    Jabdi@99 How do you know we 'lack any British born talent'? Have you visited every town and city in the UK? On what do you base your figures? If anything you appear to be racist yourself - as racism is actually not to do with colour. It is to do with perception.

  • rate this

    Comment number 190.

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

    They already do, everyone signing does. It's called evidencing job search, and should be in every job seekers agreement. Trouble is, there is no way of actually checking this, it's often completely made up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 189.

    Immigrants should not be allowed to claim any benefits at all - just as we would not expect or be allowed to claim benefits if we put ourselves in other countries. This can only be fair on those struggling in their own country. Many good and hardworking people are redundant, graduates and young people without jobs through no fault of their own - it is critical that they are helped and housed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 188.

    I never thought anybody could just walk into another country & just claim benefits it's perverse could you imagine us going to Australia or the US showing up at the local dole office & saying I want benefits a house & health care, we would be sent packing. Don't think our poltical elite get the publics perception of this. It just should not be happening period.

  • rate this

    Comment number 187.

    From article:- "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."
    Many health tourists come on business and never get charged before they leave, this includes US and non-European countries. And what about Irish girls here for abortions?

  • rate this

    Comment number 186.

    The real problem regarding immigration is that too many ignore the fact that immigration is good for Britain.

    It's a real shame that politicians feel the need to ignore the facts and seek to appeal to misinformed members of the public.

    If only we had a government that put the national interest first.

  • rate this

    Comment number 185.

    114. iwantjustice
    Pakistani, Indians etc should be the target of restrictions,not Bulgarians or Romanians."

    You mean the very people already subject to just those restrictions? And why those groups specifically?

    141. pjaj
    "And this could apply to some of the work-shy natives as well.
    If you lose your job and are out of work for more than 6 months then here's your ticket home"

    Where to?

  • rate this

    Comment number 184.

    @145. An EU citizen works for a couple of years paying NI contributions, but then finds he/ is unemployed. According to your misguided philosphy they should be deported, yet any Brit in the same situation in another EU country would be able to claim benefits, so why should the UK be any different? I suggest you should read and understand EU charter atricle 26.2 before posting ill educated comments


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