Faced with a January 1, 2014 deadline imposed by the European Union to allow immigrants from Romania and Bulgaria to enjoy the same rights as British workers, the David Cameron government has announced new measures that it hopes will deter job-seekers from these countries into the UK.
“Tough new rules have been brought in from the start of next year to stop people abusing Britain’s benefit system,” a release from 10, Downing Street said.
EU citizens who enter the UK for work will be able to access welfare and out-of-work benefits only from three months after their arrival, instead of three weeks as was hitherto the case.
“As part of our long-term plan for the economy, we are taking direct action to fix the welfare and immigration systems so we end the ‘something for nothing culture’ and deliver for people who play by the rules,” Mr. Cameron said.
Other measures announced include cutting off benefits after six months for EU job seekers; stopping their housing benefit claims; setting a minimum earnings threshold; imposing a re-entry ban on those who have not been working; and increasing to £ 20,000 per employee the fine on an employer who is found not paying the minimum wage.
These measures are in addition to the measures already envisaged in the revised Immigration Bill that is likely to be passed next spring.
The restrictions, the Prime Minister said, will make the UK a “less attractive place” for EU migrants who want to “come here and try to live off the State.
Home Secretary, Theresa May, has already announced her intention to bring other tough measures into the proposed Immigration Bill.
These include more aggressive ways of monitoring illegal immigrants that include co-opting private landlords and banks to report suspicious clients, and reforming the removal and appeals system making it easier to deport people.
Mr. Cameron’s tough talking is seen as appeasing right wing Conservative party members who have been pressing for the government to impose its immigration rules regardless of their EU obligations.
Groups opposed to the present government immigration policies have attacked the slew of new anti-immigration measures that have been announced.
Habib Rehman, Joint Secretary for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) called Mr. Cameron’s statement “posturing and pretence to appease Cameron’s backbenchers, UKIP and the editors of certain newspapers.
Quoting figures from the Department of Work and Pensions, the JCI said that in February this year 16.4% of working-age UK nationals were claiming out of work benefits, compared with just 6.7% of non-UK nationals.
Added Mr. Rehman, “The Prime Minister might as well be fighting monsters under the bed. Migrants come here to work. They make a significant contribution to the country’s prosperity. It seems very strange to be proud about making the UK a less attractive place for migrants or anyone else.”