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 303.

    I wonder how many of us live in France, Spain etc. - I bet it is more than we think. Having said that we are a small island and this problem is not just about jobs but housing, more cars etc. etc. We have to draw the line somewhere - I don't think it is being racist to have concerns as it is the sheer numbers no matter where they are coming from that is the problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 302.

    This Governments talk about Illegal immigration is whitewash .
    There is not one single home office telephone number where you can call and report Illegal immigrants may be anonymously.

  • rate this

    Comment number 301.

    242.old guy
    Just now
    All the people he meets from foreign lands were very likely educated at Eaton.

    It's Eton, next time try and make sure you know how to spell the place name before you point out and deride where someone has been educated at.

  • Comment number 300.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 299.


    Absolute rubbish you talk! Every country has its share of lazy people. I've worked in 7 countries and I can honestly say that the British have a better work ethic than most.

    Spreading lies about the British work ethic is a form of racism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 298.


    They may well work for less. So why are you having a go at them? It's the employers who give with illegally low pay. Don't be a sheep, use what brain you have and go for all those little country squires who always treat their workers like dirt. They are all working to get rid of the protection for agri-workers' pay and conditions as are the supermarket chains and their lackeys.

  • rate this

    Comment number 297.

    'And as a migrant we're only going to give you 6 months jobseekers'. That is all I would be able to get and yet I've paid in over 37 years of tax! What if they can't/won't work..after 6 months they will simply disappear.What a mess this country is in. They really can't afford to let anyone in for the foreseeable future, why can't they see that? Why don't they listen to the people just for once?

  • rate this

    Comment number 296.

    David Cameron stated that's it's not possible to stop migration between EU countries. It is, by leaving the EU - hold a referendum now!

  • rate this

    Comment number 295.

    2 Countries in the EU haven't had Referendums on the EU and that's the UK and Germany. I was Very Happy with the EEC. It was fun to be part of, and a Club of Economic Equals with cultural stabilityThe EU and its new EURO masters are down a different path we have never had a vote on, and which our leaders have Actively Decieved us and Lied over Referendums on it.Guess who I vote for? I'm an ex-Lib!

  • rate this

    Comment number 294.

    Whereas immigration brings a wealth of culture to the UK, immigration should be on a 'work permit' basis. Bad employers not only exploit economic migrants, but also drive down pay and conditions for the indigenous population. Not one mainstream party, including UKIP want this as it would mean a threat to cheap labour.

  • rate this

    Comment number 293.

    For the most vociferous of complainants here, running down immigrants & so forth, they're the sort of people who are against ANY person getting help from the state.

    They'd not only deny an immigrant anything, which is not wholly wrong in some circumstances but what is wholly wrong is they want to dismantle state aid for ANYONE born & living in this country since social security was invented.

  • rate this

    Comment number 292.

    244. exxpertskier

    ..............................LABOUR-just shut up on this subject-you have NO CREDIBILITY on this and the economy.

    Quite true; Labour has no credibility, FULL STOP - But then, neither do the Con/Dems!

  • rate this

    Comment number 291.

    A load of hot air, just like Camerons "bonfire of the quangos" it wont happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 290.

    It would appear that almost everyone who has posted a comment on this today is ignorant and ill-educated. History will tell you that from as far back as 2000 years ago GB was invaded time and time again bringing fresh waves of immigration, Roman, Saxon, Celtic, Viking, and it is for this reason why Britain is not just Britain, it is GREAT because of all of us! Less no one forget that please.

  • rate this

    Comment number 289.

    Trying to get rid of the "something for nothing culture"?
    Crikey: what on earth will we do with all those unemployed politicians?

  • rate this

    Comment number 288.

    Jolly good.

  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    In order to enforce these rules we need more immigration officers...they will fund themselves based on the savings made through repatriation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    What worries me is the % of locals claiming some sort of benefit. I dont think its the immigrants we should be worried about. We need to train our own people and stop employment becoming heriditary. No-one should be looking at receiving benefits as a career nor expecting a council house as a right. They think that the state should subsidise them, the state has no money, our taxes pay for them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    Ofcourse having a point of view on immigration is not akin to being racist.
    But there's a huge uncomfortable truth that the debate allows asylum to.And that's the fact that you can halt immigration for the next 20 years, but as long as there's non white people in this country the Right Wing Knuckle dragging Troglodytes will say we have an immigration problem.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    It is inconceivable that he claims to be "sorting out " benefits when he is in effect inviting the world to come for 6 months paid holiday. Tinkering with the problem of unskilled , unwanted immigration from the EU, Africa and Asia is an exercise in futility. A total ban on immigration by unskilled people from anywhere is called for. UKIP here I come.


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