EU migrants coming to live in Britain will have to prove they are “genuinely seeking employment” to claim UK jobless benefits for more than six months, David Cameron said in Ipswich today.
In his latest ‘immigration crackdown’ speech, the Prime Minister said the changes were part of a series of measures to ensure people came to the UK “for the right reasons” after the UK became a “soft touch” under Labour.
Private landlords will for the first time face fines if their tenants were found to be illegal immigrants.
In effect, this means that anyone who rents out a room will have to check their tenant’s passport and have a good understanding of Immigration Rules and the various types of visas.
Put another way, landlords, like other hardworking small business people, are being penalised for past and present Government incompetence.
How long will it be before pensioners will be forced to check the passport of everyone who cleans their windows or mows the lawn?
Migrants from the European Economic Area, which consists of EU member states plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, currently have to demonstrate that they have a “reasonable chance” of finding a job in order to claim unemployment benefit for more than six months, a pretty vague test.
Cameron said EU migrants 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.
He did not confirm who will be checking their English Language ability or whether staff at job centres will be running English tests.
In his speech, the PM spoke of the “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”.
“These concerns are not just legitimate; they are right and it is a fundamental duty of every mainstream politician to address them.”
‘National health not international health service’
Cameron admitted failing in the system of charging other countries for healthcare and benefits for their citizens and said there was a need to “Improve reciprocal charging”.
Referring specifically to the NHS, he added:
“We have a free national health service (NHS), not an international health service”
He was unable to give any figures on the scale, cost and numbers of so-called benefit tourists, although DWP figures suggest 17% of working-age UK nationals claim a benefit, compared with 7% of working age non-UK nationals.
Work restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians working in the UK are due to be removed next year, months after similar restrictions are imposed on Croatians when they join the EU in July.
Romania and Bulgaria joined the European Union in 2007 but, unlike the previous new members from Eastern Europe, they have faced the hurdle of “transitional arrangements” or limits on their freedom of movement rights to work in the UK.
Bulgarians and Romanians have been able to come to the UK to live since 2007, but have only been able to work via a work permit system or on a yellow card work study scheme, or by being self-employed, or in a variety of jobs from domestic work to seasonal agriculture.
In order to obtain a yellow card permit, Bulgarians and Romanians are required to take out comprehensive sickness insurance (private medical) cover at a cost of around £50 per month.
The UKBA has not imposed the medical insurance requirement on other migrant groups.
Despite the work restrictions, by July 2012 there were 94,000 Romanians and 47,000 Bulgarians resident in the UK, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), although there is no accurate count as most come and go without being documented.
But the fact that so many have jumped through the UKBA’s assault course of requirements to get a yellow card demonstrates their determination to start a new life in the UK.
The end of transitional controls will give Bulgarian and Romanians who want to work in the UK the same rights for welfare and NHS care as foreign nationals from the other 24 EU nations.
Even if the UKBA will take several months to process their BR1 applications, Bulgarians and Romanians are still applying for yellow cards to study and work in the UK because they fear the British Government will find a way to impose further restrictions on working.
Others want to get a head start and beat the rush for jobs next year.
Commenting on today’s announcement, BBC Deputy Political Editor James Landale said:
“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.”
Migrants Bulgaria and Romania may wonder why they are being targeted as the cause of a broken welfare system when they form only a small part of the welfare bill.
Far from being benefit seekers, the vast majority of migrants come here to work in the very jobs which British people do not want to do.
Employers are also despairing of resident British workers brought up in a ‘benefit culture’ where their only concern when attending a job interview is how many hours they can work without losing their state handouts.
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