IMMIGRANTS face tougher curbs on unemployment benefits and access to the health service and housing, under a crackdown being unveiled by David Cameron yesterday.
The Prime Minister will use a keynote speech today to warn those coming to Britain that they can no longer expect “something for nothing”.
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.
The government is 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 confirm the heavily trailed move to keep immigrant families off council house waiting lists for up to five years.
The Prime Minister will also target illegal immigration – doubling the maximum fine for companies that employ illegal workers to £20,000 – and signal action against so-called “health tourism” that could mean non-EU nationals have to prove they hold insurance before getting care.
The harder line will please the Tory right, which has blamed the lack of action in such core areas for the party’s dismal third place behind the UK Independence Party (Ukip) in the Eastleigh by-election.
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 ten years. He admitted the move would risk “undermining public confidence”.
However, there have also been warnings that politicians’ language is “wholly disproportionate” to the problems caused by immigration.
The Bishop of Dudley, David Walker, said: “Public fears around immigration are like fears around crime. They bear little relationship to the actual reality.”
Speaking at an event in East Anglia, Mr Cameron is 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 [the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway] a very clear message. Just like British citizens, there is no absolute right to unemployment benefit.”