Dispelling the myths: Do immigrants come to Britain to claim benefits?

Having previously dealt with the myth that immigrants come to the UK and steal British jobs, I thought I’d have a go at tackling another common myth about immigration: the claim that immigrants come to the UK to get a free house, Jobseeker’s Allowance and collect other benefits. This claim is used by many people in power to push for harsher immigration policies, like the one the government said it would push for last year, whereby homeless migrants would be automatically deported, or other suggested policies like capping the amount of migrants per year (as if they were livestock).

Politicians and media-men who angrily shout about the dangers of benefit claiming immigrants don’t ever seem to wonder why these people are moving thousands of miles away from their home, their family and their friends to come to the UK. Nor do they seem to have any solutions when it comes to raising wages or living standards at home and abroad, because it doesn’t matter to them. What matters is their perception that Europeans are migrating to the UK for free money. But hey, for all their ignorance in other areas of welfare, maybe they have a point, which is why I’ve analysed the data and presented my findings below.

Before we begin, it’s important to specify what benefits migrants can and cannot claim. You can find all of the information listed below here.

  • EEA migrants (those from the European Economic Area) must pass a residency test, prove they have the right to permanently reside in the UK and prove that they’ve lived here for at least three months before they can claim Jobseeker’s Allowance. They are not allowed to simultaneously claim housing benefit and Jobseeker’s Allowance.
  • Migrants from countries outside of the EEA are generally not allowed to claim benefits for the first two years of their stay in the UK.
  • Asylum seekers may receive financial assistance from the Home Office if their circumstances are urgent.
  • Refugees may claim benefits the same way as UK nationals, with fast tracked applications if their circumstances are urgent.
  • Persons granted indefinite leave to stay in the UK (but not citizenship) may claim benefits the same way as UK nationals unless they have a sponsor (i.e. a family member) who is supporting them during their stay.

So EEA migrants, refugees and persons granted indefinite leave are the ones relevant to the myth. We can immediately strike refugees from our list though, because it’d be absolutely absurd to claim that people are putting themselves in mortal danger just to collect Jobseeker’s Allowance in a foreign country. Refugees and asylum seekers are fleeing oppressive governments, persecution, violence and war, they’re not coming for a measly handout. Thankfully the people who hate refugees are confined to the BNP and other racist ilk.

Surprisingly (or not), immigrants are actually less likely to claim benefits than British-born nationals. 60% less likely in fact. This may be due to the fact that only 1 in 10 migrant applications for benefits is successful, but the evidence points to a different reason – most of them simply don’t come here to claim in the first place. A report by the European Commission last year explained that there was “little evidence” to suggest a migrant’s main motivation for coming to the UK was to claim benefits. As I stated in my last post about the immigration issue, the main motivations for migrants coming to the UK include work, study or to be with their family. The issue of government handouts largely doesn’t register with them.

What is especially interesting is that immigrants actually put more money into the economy than they take out, whereas British-born nationals contribute way less money than they take out. The Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration at UCL conducted a study which found that EEA migrants contributed £8.8 billion more than they cost between 1995-2011. On the other hand, British-born nationals cost £605.5 billion more than they contributed in the same period. Even migrants outside of the EEA contributed 2% more than they took out of the economy.

Statistically, migrants put less strain on public services like the NHS than British-born nationals, who only put back ~89% of what they remove from the system. That’s an 11% deficit British people are running and migrants are not. UCL also looked at what A8 migrants contributed between 2008-2009, and found that they paid 37% more in taxes than they cost on public services. How ’bout them apples. Who’s more deserving of state benefits then – the ones from abroad who have already paid into the system, or the ones born here who take more than they give back?

Now that’s not to suggest that there isn’t a single migrant claiming benefits, nor does it suggest that some migrants take out more than they put in. But overall, immigrants are less likely to claim state benefits than British-born people, and they’re better at putting back what they remove from the system. If you want to deport people who cost more money than they contribute, you better buy yourself a plane ticket.

Be sure to pass this along to your UKIP or Tory representative.



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