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 363.

    At the moment there are problems with dealing with applications for immigration... a backlog of work for the Immigration Authorities. Wouldn't it be very easy to say "No!" to all of them and solve two problems at once?
    Come on, guys (and Theresa), get your act together quickly!

  • rate this

    Comment number 362.

    re 284 Kaybraes
    Nick Clegg's recent proposal to charge potential immigrants £1,000 deposit, refundable on departure, is laughable. £1,000 is cheap for admission to the UK compared to the £'000s paid to illegal traffickers to achieve the same result. The non-genuine arrivals will just pay the £1,000 and disappear into the masses, possibly taking years to locate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 361.

    Did the xenophobes here not look at the data? Natives are twice as likely to be on benefits as immigrants.//

    The immigrants are taking jobs that our most vulnerable need, lowering wages at the same time, and using services the many who are in non-skilled jobs aren't paying for. The real xenophobes are the ones who persistently lie about the superiority of immigrants.

  • rate this

    Comment number 360.

    While many people oppose immigration on these ridiculous xenophobic assumptions that "immigrants come here to steal our benefits" (Romanians want to come to the UK to work, not to sponge), nobody seems to care that the UK is over-populated. The strain on housing, transport and water to name a few is the problem, We need to close the door to immigration for these reasons alone, not new-age racism.

  • rate this

    Comment number 359.

    he could do with targeting his familys and friends offshore tax accounts first

  • rate this

    Comment number 358.

    Scotland is not overpopulated. If you people in the South East are feeling cramped, you wanted it all, the 80s thing, the me and greed culture which was financed from the City. All while regional policy was being destroyed. Imigrants bring a net reward for this country though immigration need to be kept down Cameron manages to hand billions in benefits to his rich friends. Godless.

  • rate this

    Comment number 357.

    As of the data in the table in this article I feel Priminister is barking to the wrong tree

  • rate this

    Comment number 356.

    Mentioned the child benefit the foreigners get,without having paid a penny into the system,and the hys squad deleted it before the paint was dry.This is a warning to us all that the BBC propoganda machine is getting into full flow protecting their left wing paymasters,THE LABOUR PARTY,as witnessed by Eddie Mair,with Boris,bet he does not call them nasty pieces of work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 355.

    Cameron is making a start.
    After the PC years, he has a long way to go!
    Interpreters in schools instead of insist on English.
    School celebrated for its pupils speaking over a dozen languages in class without integration!
    Immigration is a good start. We get told how valuable immigrants are to GB, but tend to forget 7/7, and immigrant ghetto mentality in some parts of GB.DC should attack that next!

  • rate this

    Comment number 354.

    Minerve for PM

  • rate this

    Comment number 353.

    309. Trout Mask Replica
    "your solution to immigration into this country is to advocate that people become immigrants themselves"
    Heh. Though no less ironic than the fact that the Daily Mail has an 'international edition' aimed at (and widely available in) British enclaves on the Costas, Canaries etc. Notice too how they use the far cuddlier 'expat' over 'immigrant' to refer to Brits living abroad.

  • Comment number 352.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 351.

    I am fed up of waiting in the doctor`s surgery,and seeing so many foreign names flash up to go in and see the GP next.Our NHS,as everyone knows is permanently overstretched in the first place without us being swamped by foreigners too.I hate the EU,and the laws we are tied to.If the migrants can`t afford their own private healthcare they shouldn`t be allowed to stay here.

  • rate this

    Comment number 350.

    a large population of these immigrants are here too exploit our benefits,
    how many that are in work and those receiving benefits send there money back to there country, where the native brits spend there money in the country and benefits the economy

  • rate this

    Comment number 349.

    Maybe some people do come to Britain for benefits, who knows.. but what those statistics show in that table is that the vast majority come here to work for a better future. Q: what sort of person uproots their family to go somewhere completely different?? A: Somebody with drive, not somebody looking for the path of least resistance.. Plus immigrants don't need nurture for 20 years before working..

  • rate this

    Comment number 348.

    A staggeringly incompetent, not fit for purpose, UK Border Agency has not helped.

    No point in Windbag pushing for more immigrant regulation if yet another failed department/quango - UKBA is incapable of enforcing them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 347.

    >If they haven't got a job and have no means to support themselves, why >are we letting them into the UK in the first place?

    People can get sacked or have a job offer fall through. Borders agency often just lets people through unchecked. There's 26 years worth of backlog at the borders agency and the person who caused this moved to HRMC, which explains why they aren't collecting what is owed.

  • Comment number 346.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    Immigrants should have to work for a minimum of 5 years in the UK before being eligible for any benafit .. that includes NHS treatment social housing and finacial handouts ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    Everything about this man's politics seep to be about subjugating a group according to popular prejudice. Our best resource in a failing economy is each other. You just cant live with out people in this day and age. conservative politics have changed us from a modern country into jingoistic miserly misanthropes, and they have the cheek to make us believe thats the best we can expect! Disgusting


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