LONDON: A British crackdown on “benefit tourism” will begin on January 1 when migrants from the European Union (EU) will be banned from claiming unemployment handouts until three months after arrival, Prime Minister David Cameron announced on Wednesday.
Cameron said the move, part of a package of immigration measures announced last month, would make Britain “a less attractive place for EU migrants who want to come here and try to live off the state.”
The prime minister is under pressure from his Conservative party and right-leaning newspapers to manage an expected influx of migrants from Bulgaria and Romania, two of the EU’s poorest members, when restrictions on their entry to Britain end on January 1.
“I want to send the clear message that whilst Britain is very much open for business, we will not welcome people who don’t want to contribute,” Cameron said.
“Most EU citizens coming to the UK come here to work as part of the single market and contribute to the economy and pay their taxes.
“But for those who come here without jobs to go to, we are today tightening up the rules to stop them claiming out of work benefits from day one.”
The new rules mean migrants from all 27 of Britain’s fellow EU countries will be unable to claim Jobseeker’s Allowance, a handout of at least £56.80 a week ($92.50), until three months after their arrival.
The allowance will be cut off six months after the first payment, unless the claimant has “compelling evidence that they have a genuine chance of finding work,” Cameron’s office said.
Under the crackdown announced by Cameron last month, EU migrants will also be banned from claiming housing benefits, while migrants found begging or homeless will be removed and barred from re-entering Britain for a year.
The plans have been criticized by the EU’s employment commissioner Laszlo Andor, who warned that Britain risked being seen as the EU’s “nasty country.”
Cameron said the crackdown would bring an end to a “something for nothing” culture.
He has also proposed quadrupling the fine levied on businesses which employ migrants for less than the national minimum wage, to up to £20,000 per employee, in a bid to stop employers exploiting cheap migrant labor.
Cameron has pledged to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU before holding a referendum on membership of the bloc by 2017.