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 343.

    I moved from the UK to Austria. I am not allowed to claim benefits because I have not worked in or paid taxes in Austria for 52 weeks. I had to get a letter from the UK to say that I had paid my taxes- U2 Form before the job service here would even talk to me. My partner can claim social money for me because we live together not much

    Maybe something similar in the UK should be thought about.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    People have been saying for centuries that we are overcrowded. Doesn't seem obvious to me when you travel across country or even east to west. We are very green and affluent. We are a country of immigrants and have gained more as a result.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    Never mind benefits, can some please tell me how it is that all these immigrants are being allowed to vote?

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    No one should be entiltled to take out more than they have put in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    Conservatie and Labour know what effect Immigration have on Housing, Education,Health Service etc as they have figures for last ten/fifteen years but they will not reveal in order that People can decide. Why £1000.00 Deposit ? Why Two years?Is it that if some one worked for two years he gets right to claim benefit for rest of life.Cannot understand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    Hmmm This will come to every Unemployed person in the UK in the future just like the USA, you get benefit paid for 1 year then your on your own.
    When Governments get desperate and not receiving enough tax from the working class you get this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    #176. Jane Sircombe
    'Punish those responsible for this world wide crisis, those with power and influence, not the poor saps at the bottom of the pile'

    I agree totally, but immigration has never really done much in itself to benefit the poor saps at the bottom of the pile. Being able to jet the technocrats and meritocratic elite around the world only benefits global capital.

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    The freedom of movement directive is quite clear, 1 be abke to support themselves either through work or private funds, 2 have private health insurance 3 not be a threat to public order and 4 not be an unreasonable burden on the host nation. if you lived and worked for a year then you can get assistance from the host nation. if you arrive and expect benifits the host nation can send you home,

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    Camoron is not announcing anything new, the alleged new rules he's bringing in are already in place. Strong words without substance & no intention of action, all we've come to expect from the idiots who are bleeding our country dry. Our attention is being diverted very well away from the REAL parasites, no one on benefits comes close to taking what these old Etonians have.

  • Comment number 334.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    I'd rather be poor, with like minded people, or with people who have beneficial values, who don't take the mick! Who are fair, who don't try to push any of their views on me.
    I want to walk down the street having a chat with the neighbours. I want to go to my local town, feeling proud of it, instead of it being a miserable journey, checking to see if my wallet and phone are still in my possession.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    I would like to agree on the statement that Europeans are the ones who truly support the Britains in paying taxes and contributing to the economy.

    Why complaining about the Europeans?

    The Non-Europeans are the real problem!

    If you look at this website http://www.yre.org.uk/about.html ...you will know what i mean..anti racist(anti white) protests should not exist.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    I am so sick of the PC brigade telling us we are a nation of immigrants eg anglo saxons,vikings,romans,celts etc YES but that was hundreds of years ago and we all INTERGRATED...dont see that happening with todays immigrants!...stop living in a fantasy world and open your eyes and see the reality of todays country!

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    The number of workers we need to pay for the pension needs of this Country far outweigh the number of UK nationals of working age that we have so who is going to make up the difference? We have one of the lowest corporation tax of anyone but still the likes of Amazon, Google, Starbucks et al won't pay it, but yeah lets blame the immigrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    I'd just like to add that British Gas alone had more than 600 millions PROFIT this year and we keep blaming immigration... I really don't see the logic.

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    This guy is an educated fool.

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    "David Cameron 'to toughen' European migrants' benefits rules"

    Thoroughly agree benefit rules need to be toughened up.

    However, there is a BIG difference between what he promises and what he actually does.

    More sound bites from the PR of a PM. Hmm... the next General Election is 2 years away.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    Im up for immigration if they can support themselves/get a high skilled job which cannot be filled by a UK national/limited numbers of immigrants. Anything less than that, no thank you

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    The skilled workers list that the UK needs to import actually includes:

    Artsists, dancers, musicians, cooks, social workers, management consultants, economists, secondary school teachers, geologists, meteorologists and the self-employed.

    Like we don't have enough of these already or can't train them ourselves!

    It's all a farce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    There is not one single home office telephone number where you can call and report Illegal immigrants may be anonymously.

    How exactly would anyone be able to tell that someone is here illegally? Just by looking at them?? By their clothing? By their smell?

    And anyway....here it is - http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/aboutus/contact/report-crime/

    Off you go...


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