Prime Minister David Cameron wants to limit immigrants’ access to British public services to ensure that the UK is “not a soft touch”, the Telegraph reports today.
Mr Cameron said that he wants to reform the system allowing immigrants access to housing, the health service, the justice system and benefits.
The British PM’s latest rant follows the growing debate about the numbers of new Romanians and Bulgarians preparing to migrate to the UK next year.
Around 29 million Bulgarians and Romanians will gain the right to live and work in Britain next year under European “freedom of movement” regulations, following 7 years of restricted access during which several hundred thousand still managed to settle here.
Cameron chaired a ministerial working group this week during which he questioned members of the Cabinet about ways to withhold some benefits from immigrants.
It is not clear what answers he received from the ministers, many of whom were probably squirming in their seats hoping Mr Cameron would not turn his attention on them as, in reality, there are no magic solutions when it comes to EU migration.
Since most non-EU immigrants and non-EU students are generally not entitled to benefits or ‘recourse to public funds’ until they become UK permanent residents (Indefinite Leave top Remain) or British citizens, the government is presumably targeting benefit restrictions towards EU migrants or, more to the point, specifically Romanians and Bulgarians? Either way, their hands are tied by Brussels.
People granted asylum or humanitarian protection are entitled to benefits, but this does not extend to working migrants on work permits or overseas students.
The vast majority of immigrants come here to work or start a business, and they are remarkably successful considering the fact that they usually start with nothing and face language, cultural and other barriers.
In Parliament during Prime Minister’s Questions, Mr Cameron said the Government will look at “every single one of our systems” to ensure that so-called benefits tourists are not taking advantage.
“Britain has always been an open and welcoming economy but it isn’t right if our systems are being abused and that is why I chaired yesterday a committee meeting in Whitehall,” Mr Cameron said. “We are going to look at every single one of our systems – housing, health and benefits – to make sure we are not a soft touch for those who want to come here.
“I think it is absolutely vital that we get this right. There are many parts of our current arrangements which simply don’t pass a simple common sense test in terms of access to housing, access to the health service, access to justice and other things which should be the right of all British citizens but they’re not the right of anyone who just chooses to come here.”
The Home Office has repeatedly refused to put any number on the anticipated arrivals from Bulgaria and Romania or outline how they will restrict benefits for new arrivals when all EU members will have the same rights.
Ministers are rightly concerned about releasing the research into the possible number of arrivals, which they believe will be compared with the farcical prediction by the then Labour government that only 13,000 would move to Britain from Poland and other eastern European countries after 2004.
As expected by anyone with half a brain, more than one million eastern Europeans arrived in one of the biggest waves of immigration seen in the UK.
Unable to stem the tidal wave of EU immigration, the government has instead slashed the number of fee paying cash rich non-EU overseas students to meet net migration targets.
Some would argue that the Prime Ministers well meaning proposals are the equivalent of ‘shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted’, while others would simply say they are unworkable under current treaties signed by the previous Labour government.
However, contrary to popular belief, EU and EEA national citizens are not actually entitled to live indefinitely in the UK without conforming to certain rules.
Existing rules (though not generally enforced) state that EU citizens can freely travel to the UK or any other EU member state and stay for 3 months before exercising various treaty rights or declaring themselves as self sufficient.
The UK could also insist that some EU or EEA citizens residing in the UK take out private medical insurance cover, as retired British people living in Spain are forced to do so by the Spanish government.
But this would require the NHS to administer treatment only to those who entitled to it, something which is simply beyond their capabilities, despite employing rafts of overpaid CEO’s and managers on six figure salaries.
The treatment of British people, who are largely retired self sufficient people who buy their own properties, by the Spanish government, is quite different to the UK’s welcome offered to most EU migrants.
At present, only Romanian and Bulgarian students are forced, in any large numbers, to take out medical or ‘comprehensive sickness insurance’ cover before being granted a yellow card permit to work and study in the UK.
Related immigration blogs:
Majestic College offer special packages for EU students. They also have a number of employers looking for staff right now and are willing to employ Bulgarians and Romanians.
For more information call Joanna on 0208 207 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org