David Cameron is set to announce tough new measures to curb immigrants’ access to housing and benefits, in an attempt to tackle the “something-for-nothing” welfare culture.
The Prime Minister will use a keynote speech today to warn those coming to the country that Britain will no longer be taking a “soft touch” approach to immigration.
From next year, arrivals from the European Union will be stripped of jobseekers’ benefits after six months unless they can prove they have been actively looking for a job and stand a “genuine chance” of finding one.
Immigrant families will also be kept off council house waiting lists for up to five years.
Local authorities will have to introduce minimum residency times of between two and five years for joining waiting lists – or justify why they are not.
Mr Cameron is likely to cite figures in his speech showing that nearly one in 10 new social lettings go to foreign nationals. The proportion has risen from 6.5% in 2007-08 to 9% in 2011-12.
The Government is also pledging to beef up the “range and depth” of questions in the habitual residence test, which checks that people meet residence requirements for housing and income-related benefits.
Mr Cameron will also target illegal immigration – doubling the maximum fine for companies that employ illegal workers to £20,000.
He will also signal action against so-called “health tourism” that could mean non-EU nationals have to prove they hold insurance before getting care.
Mr Cameron is expected to say in his speech: “While I have always believed in the benefits of immigration I have also always believed that immigration has to be properly controlled.
“As I have long argued, under the last government this simply wasn’t the case. Immigration was far too high and badly out of control. Net migration needs to come down radically from hundreds of thousands a year to just tens of thousands.
“And as we bring net migration down so we must also make sure that Britain continues to benefit from it.
“That means ensuring that those who do come here are the brightest and the best the people we really need with the skills and entrepreneurial talent to create the British jobs and growth that will help us to win in the global race.”
In his spring conference address over the weekend, UKIP leader Nigel Farage claimed his willingness to talk about immigration was one of the main reasons for the party’s surge in popularity.
Concerns have also been rising over an influx from Bulgaria and Romania when movement restrictions are loosened at the end of this year.
The increasing political focus on the issue was emphasised last week when Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg ditched the Liberal Democrats’ policy of offering an amnesty to illegal immigrants who have been in the country for more than 10 years.
He admitted the move would risk “undermining public confidence”.
In his speech, Mr Cameron is also due to say: “Ending the something-for-nothing culture needs to apply to immigration as well as welfare.
“We’re going to give migrants from the European Economic Area a very clear message. Just like British citizens, there is no absolute right to unemployment benefit.”
Insisting the NHS must be able to reclaim money from people who are not eligible for treatment, Mr Cameron is to say: “We should be clear that what we have is a free National Health Service, not a free International Health Service.”
It comes as the Home Affairs Select Committee founds the UK Border Agency’s progress in dealing with asylum backlogs is “far too slow”.
Committee chair Keith Vaz MP said: “No sooner is one backlog closed, than four more are discovered. At this rate it will take 24 years to clear the backlog which still stands at the size of the population of Iceland.”
The number of UKBA backlog cases fell by 1% quarter-on-quarter, the committee said, despite 96,000 cases closed.
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Article source: http://news.sky.com/story/1069254