Green MEPs: ‘Benefit Tourism’ is a myth

Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposed clampdown on so-called ‘benefits tourism’ is rhetoric based on myths which will hurt not help the health of the British economy and society, say Green MEPs Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor.

Cameron has set out radical plans to overhaul welfare rules including stopping new arrivals from the European Union getting out-of-work benefits for three months.

Jean Lambert, Green MEP and the Green Party’s immigration spokesperson, said: “This is all about deflecting attention from benefit cuts, and not really about protecting UK benefits and public services at all.”

“‘Benefit Tourism’ is a myth – not borne out by the facts at all, as the EU Commission and the OECD have made clear. In fact, those born outside the UK tend to pay more tax, and claim fewer benefits, than those born here – they are, as a group, net contributors to the public purse.

“Overwhelmingly, people come here to work and some come because they feel safer here than in their home-country: both of these say very positive things about the UK. Cameron prefers not to recognise that – he’s too busy looking for the next set of benefit cuts.”

Green MEP Kieth Taylor, said:

“A great tragedy of the latest round of immigration myth-making is the utter reluctance of the old political parties to stand up to the Tories on this. We’d expect nothing sensible from UKIP of course but for the Lib-Dems and Labour to perpetuate these myths is deeply disappointing.

“This hard talking rhetoric from the Government is based on myths. We know that the effects of so-called ‘benefits tourists’ has been shown to be hugely overblown. Indeed we also know that the UK makes full use of free movement in Europe with hundreds of thousands of British Nationals living in other EU countries.

“Yet time and time again the Government shift the blame for the problems we face onto new arrivals in the UK. The proposal to deport rough sleepers from other EU countries is truly cruel.”

2 thoughts on “Green MEPs: ‘Benefit Tourism’ is a myth

    Newly-arrived EU migrants will be banned from claiming housing benefit, under changes released Tuesday by UK prime minister David Cameron. Recently arrived migrants would be barred from claiming unemployment benefits for three months, while unemployed migrants sleeping rough or begging would be deported and barred from re-entry for 12 months.


    Cameron: ‘Since 2004, we have witnessed the biggest migration in Europe outside wartime’
    UK asked to avoid ‘hysterical’ debate on migration

    Welfare tourism ‘neither widespread nor systematic’ in Europe
    By Honor Mahony

    BRUSSELS – EU commissioners on Wednesday told the UK to avoid “hysteria” and to be more factual after Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled proposals to tighten migrants’ access to social welfare payments.

    “I would really applaud if on all these questions we could come down to earth again, look at facts and figures, see what has to be done in order to solve the small problems,” said EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding.

    Her colleague in charge of social affairs, Laszlo Andor, also said that facts were scarce in the current debate on migrants’ rights.

    He noted that Cameron linked EU enlargement and migration, but said that “about two-thirds of the migrants go to the United Kingdom from non-European countries.”

    “There are existing EU rules and safeguards against the so-called benefit tourism,” he told BBC radio.

    “If we look at jobseeker’s allowance: if someone newly arrived in the UK or in another country, it is the home country which in the first place needs to cover its necessary jobseeker’s allowance and not the receiving country. So they would need a more accurate presentation of the reality not under such pressure [and] not under such hysteria, which sometimes happens in the UK,” he added.

    The rebukes come after Cameron, writing in the Financial Times, said he shared the concerns of people worried about the “impact” of Romania and Bulgarian citizens on the UK.

    At the end of the year, remaining restrictions preventing citizens from the two countries from moving freely around the EU will be lifted.

    Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, he accused the previous labour government of a “shameful dereliction of duty” for not applying the restrictions in 2004 when eight countries joined the EU.

    “They predicted 40,000 Polish people would arrive to work in Britain. In the event, the number was over 700,000,” he said.

    Under Cameron’s plans, new migrants would not receive out-of-work benefits for the first three months of arriving in the UK. Payments would be stopped after half a year unless the claimant has a “genuine” chance of a job.

    They would also not be allowed to claim housing benefits straight away while those caught begging or sleeping rough will be removed “and barred from re-entry for 12 months”

    The proposals come as Cameron is under increasing pressure from his conservative party to be tougher on immigration issues as it risks losing ground to the UK Independence Party as well as being out of tune with voters.

    The commission has not yet said whether the proposals will be breach EU rules but Andor called them an “unfortunate over-reaction” and said the “unilateral rhetoric” risked portraying the UK as a “nasty country” in the EU.

    The commission and the UK are already locked in a legal battle over the “right to reside” test that London applies when determining whether non-UK residents are entitled to social security benefits.

    The commission has also asked the UK, as well as Austria, Germany and the Netherlands, for more evidence about assertions about widespread benefit tourism. All four countries have called for a change in the current rules.

    Last month, Brussels itself published a study saying that EU citizens move from one member state to another overwhelmingly for work reasons and not to claim welfare.

    Any changes on access to benefits would first have to be proposed by the commission and would need to be supported by a qualified majority of member states as well as the parliament.

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