What's the story behind this claim?
“if you ask ministers, ‘how big a problem is this’, ‘how many migrants are coming here and claiming benefits?’ Answers come then; none.”
Norman Smith, BBC
David Cameron, writing in the Daily Telegraph today announces that from November migrant workers will be unable to claim jobseekers allowance (JSA) for more than three months.
The Government made changes to the welfare system earlier this year to make EU migrants wait three months before they were eligible to claim benefits and could claim JSA or child benefit for a maximum of six months.
The Prime Minister says in his article that “we’re also making sure people come for the right reasons – which has meant addressing the magnetic pull of Britain’s benefits system”.
How big a problem is ‘benefit tourism’? Two amendments to the welfare system and length of time people can claim for must mean it’s a large-scale problem, surely?
Well, not really. Norman Smith, from the BBC says this announcement is about the message, not money. The Conservative party are trying to appeal to voters who voted for UKIP at the recent European elections. He also said “if you ask ministers, ‘how big a problem is this’, ‘how many migrants are coming here and claiming benefits?’ Answers come then; none.”
Recent data shows that the UK is the only EU country to have a lower unemployment rate for migrants – 7.5% - than nationals 7.8%. Amongst those migrants who are unemployed, an even lower proportion – 1% - actually claim unemployment benefits compared to UK nationals - 4%.
The UK is also not the most generous of countries in the EU when it comes to benefits; there are 14 Countries in the EU that have a higher rate for benefits. All of which makes the UK a strange choice for those moving specifically for benefits.
In his article the Prime Minister says “you can no longer come here and expect to be given a home instantly. Statutory guidance now ensures that councils only add people to housing waiting lists when they have lived in the area for two years.”
This is a myth. Immigrants could never go straight to the top of the housing queue. 90% of those in social housing are UK born. The majority of new immigrants are not eligible for social housing at all and those EU nationals in employment who are; are allowed to join the queue.
David Cameron also talks about illegal immigration in the article and conflates people here illegally with terrorists.
“I can think of few things more infuriating than seeing people who have caused harm in our country and who launch appeal after appeal to stay, with the line that they have a “right to a family life” – never mind the families whose lives they have shattered.”
He also says that the majority of new jobs used to go to immigrants, which isn’t true. In 2010 immigrants accounted for 15% of people who were hired, 85% went to British Workers.
The BBC analysis views this article today as electioneering and also says that Labour and the Liberal Democrats won’t be disagreeing with it (loudly).
The problem with all of this for those of us concerned with racism; is that the myths about immigrants and what they are entitled to are widely believed. SRtRC Education Workers are regularly faced with the challenge in schools of having to deconstruct these powerful myths and disinformation.
The campaign has produced two myth-busters with the trade union UNISON in the last two years to help provide more accurate information. The focus of the next SRtRC film will also be immigration.
There is currently a huge imbalance in the way that immigration is discussed in the UK. Too many newspapers and politicians are regularly talking about the issue from an inaccurate viewpoint.
To re-dress the balance more politicians and newspapers need to talking about the positives of immigration and more accurately reflecting the reality – such as the 25 billion in taxes migrants have contributed to the UK economy over 10 years and the fact that the vast majority of migrants are not here illegally, are working and are part of the nation’s communities.
SRtRC will be carrying out a series of interviews with Writers, Comedians, Academics and others over the next few weeks, which will all be available on the website and will ask about immigration.
Jeremy Hardy interview – “If the media keeps telling you ‘you’re worried’, you start to think ‘maybe I should be?’”
Zesh Rehman interview – Living and working in Thailand, Hong Kong and Malaysia.