By Joe Mellor, In house Reporter
A European Commission study has found that unemployed EU migrants only make up a very small percentage of those claiming social benefits in EU member states.
Benefit tourists, like day-trippers to Chernobyl, don’t appear to exist.
But that doesn’t fit with the Conservative’s plan to stop it anyway.
They are demanding tighter EU rules on access to benefits, even though the portion of EU migrants among welfare beneficiaries was below 5%.
It’s part of the Tory’s increasingly right wing stance of immigration.
Recently, immigration minister, Mr Harper, who signed off the controversial ‘Go Home’ ad vans which toured London this summer, told a failed asylum seeker on live TV that ‘You have no right to be in the UK and you should leave.’
Following that, Home Secretary Theresa May said that steps were already being taken to tighten the rules on EU migrants’ access to benefits, as the public demanded it.
According to a Sky News poll she appears to be right.
Some 67% of people questioned said the coalition’s attempt to reduce net migration to 100,000 a year was not sufficient and that more should be done.
However, drill down into the figures and it seems that people’s concerns reflect something else.
Looking at the figures of the poll, 71% of people who live in the countryside think drastic action is needed, compared with 53% in urban areas. Also, 71% of people who don’t know any immigrants support drastic action, compared with 58% who say they know immigrants well.
It’s a fear of the unknown, rather than migrants, that worries people.
There is a vicious circle, where the right wing press scaremonger about the problem of migrants. The Government reacts strongly in support of that, which exacerbates people’s concerns.
Repeat to fade.
However, there is no doubt there are a substantial number of EU migrants in the UK, which was illustrated by demand for Polish tickets against England at Wembley.
The argument is whether they contribute to our society or not.
600,000 migrants in the UK are non-active, but before panic sets in and you reach for the pitchfork, only 38,000 claim benefits.
The rest of the figure is taken up with children, elderly, students and others.
If you believe the UK is already full, then the fact that an extra forty thousand extra people are claiming benefits, will make your blood boil.
But, are these “benefits tourists” or just people who are actively seeking employment, hoping to get work soon?
European Commission spokesman, Jonathan Todd, believes the UK Government has declined to provide evidence to support its claims that there is a huge problem of benefit tourism.
Mr Todd went on to say that migrants actually support the economy:
“The vast majority of migrants go to the UK to work. They actually contribute more to the welfare system than they take out, purely because they tend to be younger than the average population and of working age. The more EU migrants you have, the better off your welfare system is.”
The European Commission says that EU migrants continue to make a net contribution to their host countries’ finances, by paying more in taxes than they receive in benefits.
But there is no doubt that more migrants will appear on our shores soon.
Next year, the EU labour market will be opened fully to Bulgarians and Romanians.
The number expected is disputed; however, after 2004 the number of jobseekers from Poland and other Eastern European countries was far greater than the Labour Government had anticipated. But it can’t be denied that more people mean less space, literally in some of London’s most exclusive post codes.
Westminster Council has spent a huge amount of resources trying to shift a group of Romanians who seem intent on making the wealthy residents of central London uneasy. Rich people can become very prickly when the poor pitch up (literally) on their own doorstep.
But, at the same time that the Tories said they would tighten our borders to migrants, they relaxed the rules to allow Chinese people visit the UK.
If you are Chinese with a bulging wallet, you are welcome to come for a couple of days shopping in London’s West End. But is this a short term answer to boost our economy?
Someone who comes to live here will spend money every day and will contribute to the tax base for the one, five, ten years, they remain in the UK.
Additionally, a lot of these migrants send their money home to support their poor families. Surely that is a good thing as it could help replace the overseas aid, which large sections of the population want to see curtailed.
London is increasingly becoming a place full of professional classes who are the only ones who can afford the sky high rent and mortgages in the capital.
Without foreign workers living in cramped accommodations, there would be no supermarket worker, toilet cleaner or even personal trainer.
If migrants do indeed drain the NHS, surely that is partially levelled out by the number of migrants who work for the health service.
You can’t have your cake and eat it. Without the multitude of foreign nurses, cleaners, doctors etc., the service would not be running efficiently at all.
Outside of the EU zone, would the horrific number of people who have died recently on the voyage to Lampeduza, and the hundreds more that go unreported, risk their lives to live on benefits?
I doubt it.
If we close our borders, we close our minds, which is a clear and present danger of increasing xenophobia and nationalism.