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25 Mar, 2013 13:59

Cameron’s crackdown: PM targets UK immigrants

Jobless immigrants will have UK government support payments ripped from their hands after six months. Further measures are to come into force preventing foreign entrants from even being put on a waiting list for social housing for two to five years.

Immigrants from EU states residing in Britain will lose their jobseekers’ allowance – a weekly government support payment- and other benefits, if they cannot prove that they’ve actively been looking for employment, David Cameron said in a speech on Monday.

He said that concerns that immigrants “take advantage of our generosity” were not just legitimate, "but right," adding that in the past, the UK had been a soft-touch.

Non-nationals will have to devise a way of proving that they have a ‘genuine chance’ of finding work. However, exactly how this would be done in practice is unclear. The ‘habitual residence’ test, sat by migrants who want financial support from the government, will also be made increasingly difficult.

Extra tests will have to be taken by people applying for social housing. Once the measures come into force it could take anything up to five years for residents of an area to even be put on a waiting list for a home.

However, Cameron said that he was “putting the welfare of the child at the heart of the...process”

There will be a clampdown on access to healthcare, as well as in housing and benefits payment. Immigrants entering the country from outside the EU will be forced to demonstrate evidence of medical insurance, and the NHS – a traditionally free institution - will impose charges for doctor visits. Potential immigrants entering to gain access to healthcare have had the label ‘health tourists’ slapped on them.

Earlier this month, it was announced that immigrants entering Britain may be forced to pay a deposit fee upon entering the country, which would only be reimbursed when they leave the UK, and only if they haven’t used its health service.

Even harsher measures are to be imposed on illegal immigrants. Steps are being taken to prevent illegal immigrants from getting credit cards or driving licenses, and their employers and landlords could be fined. Cameron said they were "doubling the fines levied against employers who employ illegal workers."

“Once we’ve found them we’re going to make it easier to remove them,” Cameron said. He added that he would ensure faster deportation, saying that “wherever possible” people would be deported first, and could appeal the decision second.

The new policies will come into force in 2014. The coalition's reforms would give Britain the toughest controls in the world, according to Conservative Minister of State for Immigration Mark Harper, who spoke to Sky News on Sunday.  

Cameron said that immigration got ‘badly out of control’ under Labour.

“Immigration has to be properly controlled,” he argued. “Under the last government this simply wasn’t the case. Immigration was far too high.”

However, net migration into Britain has fallen by a third in recent years, from 247,000 in June 2011 to 163,000 in 2012, according the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Additionally, their valuable contribution to the UK economy has been pointed out.

“Nothing wrong with debating immigration. But lets [sic] not omit the fact that immigrants put 6% more in to UK GDP than they take out,” said Parmjit Dhanda , former Labour MP, on Twitter. 

Cameron said that he wanted to train young British people to fill the skills gap, while saying that he was "rolling out the red carpet" to bright foreign students and entrepreneurs.

Last week, Business Secretary Vince Cable warned that restricting immigration would damage the UK economy.

The increasingly hard stance is shared by the country’s main three political parties. In light of the Eastleigh by-election results in February in which UKIP –a party renowned for its hard stance on immigration – won. All three major UK political parties are now cracking down on social support from the government; Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg voiced support for the entry fee on Friday, suggesting it could be as much as 1,000 pounds.

“We need stronger action against illegal immigration and a more effective system for the migration we need,” tweeted Labour Press Team’s Chris Bryant. “The immigration system just isn't working- fewer illegal immigrants are being stopped or sent back,” he said, going on to add that the test of the PM’s speech was whether he could stop the government’s expanding list of practical failings on immigration

“As we have said for some time, Britain does not need an arms race on immigration rhetoric, it needs practical measures to make sure the system works and immigration is properly managed and controlled,”
said Yvette Cooper MP Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary on Monday.

Cameron’s spokesman spent around 50 minutes prior to the speech fielding considerably skeptical questions from the press regarding whether Cameron's measures will have any impact whatsoever, according to the Guardian.

The UKIP is claiming credit for the outcry.

“Cameron will only create a whole pile of bureaucracy that will affect everyone in the UK, cost the taxpayer millions and will still be riddled with loopholes and therefore totally ineffective,” said UKIP’s Nigel Farage in a statement on Monday.

He went on to declare that the only way to prevent wide-scale immigration is for Britain to leave the EU.