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 1003.

    I moved to Germany in 2006 through Love, and no job.

    The first thing my German partner did was drag me around various offices, wondering if I'd get some benefits, or she would get some benefits.

    I found it embarrassing as I always knew the answer would be: 'Nein.'

    Should I have expected benefits from a country that I'd just moved to and paid zero in social contributions? I think not.

  • Comment number 1002.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 1001.

    Can Cameron and his racist cronies please clarify why talking about immigration from EU member states and "illegal immigration" appear in the same styatement. It is simply that they are pandering to the ignorance of the vocal minority and trying to out racist the xenophobic idiots in UKIP.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1000.


    I know when I have a casual chat with a tradesman, customer, etc about what this government are doing, I usually have to change direction quite quickly as most people believe the of bull spouted by the Tories and Murdoch media.

  • rate this

    Comment number 999.

    The amount in social housing seems very small. As im assuming they would find it hard to get a mortgage then that must make it a huge majority of them in private rented accomodation? And am i right in thinking hes not actually stopping anyone coming here...Sounds like just hot air to me

  • rate this

    Comment number 998.

    Mr Cameron,

    you might have seen this particular horse bolting from the stables at the time Mr Blair was in charge of the stables

    Safe to say UK government does not fashion this immigration policy but the EU does.

  • rate this

    Comment number 997.

    Leave the EU, Kick unskilled out and work on giving our own generation of youth a chance.

    How will any of the donor countrys ever improve if they have no workforce because theyre all here?

    I dont pay tax for keeping immigrants, its for the improvement of my country and im red with rage its wasted keeping migrants here instead of somone growing a pair and shutting the door!

    Go try get in USA..

  • rate this

    Comment number 996.

    Cameron says lots of things but never carries them out. This is just rhetoric to win back Tory defectors from UKIP. About time he carries out some of his promises instead of wasting time on issues like Gay marriage which nobody wanted anyway. I for one, a former Tory will stay dissillusioned, disaffected and anti Tory until DC does the decent thing and resigns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 995.

    He talks tough, but acts soft. Maybe he should just shut up and spend his energies doing something. I think it'll still be down to Mr. Farage to do something useful.

  • rate this

    Comment number 994.

    961. Steve

    The top and bottom of it put well.

    People seem to forget why we have an armed force and a border and the whole point of the flag.
    This madness has to end.
    The global utopian view is the disease of the privileged and we pay the price in the race to the bottom.

  • rate this

    Comment number 993.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and who they vote for
    Lets see in 2015 if not sooner, if UKIP make more headway, family and friends are turning to them in droves.

    Hence Camerons irrelevent speach today, he cannot do anything while we are in the EU, the speech is littered with maybe's.

    All lies and no intention!

  • rate this

    Comment number 992.

    942. daveonbank

    and there you go classic, ao anyone who thinks the current immigration system is not right must be some psycho nazi fascist? sad

  • Comment number 991.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 990.

    887. Peter - Who are these 'indingenous' people you speak of? Have you ever sought out any information for yourself, or are you happy to be spoonfed by the Daily Mail? 3 million immigrants in the UK. 370,000 claim benefits. 5.7 people nationwide claim benefits. 5.3 million of those indingenous people (?!) claim benefits...if you need me to do any more maths for you, I'll be in me shed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 989.

    It's tragic-comic how the vast majority of people posting here obviously are completely illiterate when it comes to reading the simple table embedded in this article. Otherwise they might have realised that it is the immigrants who pay for the benefits taken by the native population not the other way around. Fewer foreign workers means lower GDP, less taxes, higher deficit, less benefits for YOU.

  • rate this

    Comment number 988.

    The NHS has the right to cross charge health services of foreign nationals. Why not apply the same to social benefits. If you are a non-UK national your government should pay your benefits not the country where you reside. Technnlogy to do this is easy, the political will is lacking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 987.

    How about all the high-tech IT jobs that are being or have been outsourced the UK to India?
    Oh, sorry it's his mates who have been doing that; and it's good business!

  • rate this

    Comment number 986.

    Don't know the facts etc, but I do trust the evidence of my own eyes. Up and down the country, indigenous homeless people have been replaced by immigrant Big Issue sellers. Many of the beggars I see in Edinburgh appear to be from Eastern Europe. Why? Have we not got home-grown beggars and homeless people? The only sensible answer is that they come here to hoover up the benefits. Get tough.

  • rate this

    Comment number 985.

    16. Mighty 4 Hours ago

    "Is it just me?" Yes!

    But why should immigrants to this country have the ability to claim UK benefits, full stop? We should exercise controls ON Canadians and Australians. Heaven knows, we've got enough barmen and barmaids!

  • rate this

    Comment number 984.

    At least the welfare British does give stays in Britain

    My state Illinois in USA does not say no to anything

    The taxes for welfare we pay goes to illegal and legal immigrants in states as far as Hawaii and even to other countries like Puerto Rico

    Democrats control our House, Senate+are Governor
    so they have absolute power

    Today Illinois has the highest debt in all of America


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