I was delighted to see the EU come out this week with a report demonstrating that intra-EU migrants are not for the most part benefit tourists. Jobless EU migrants comprise less than 5% of those claiming social benefits; of the 600,000 non-active EU migrants in UK, many are schoolchildren, pensioners and the like; and crucially, migrants contribute more to the welfare system than they take out, for one reason because they tend to be younger than the average and so are working.
The European Commission spokesman – ironically British – made a thinly-veiled attack on the UK Government. He said the Commission had been asking the latter for 3 years for facts to back up its claims about “benefit tourism” – but to no avail. It was important to deal in facts, not perceptions, he added.
I couldn’t agree more. Certainly amongst Poles, I know personally cleaners, handymen, builders, hairdressers, shopkeepers, teachers and many more who are working hard in this country. Our cleaner, a single mum, holds down 2 jobs to make ends meet and won’t dream of taking benefits: it’s a matter of principle. Indeed, it makes no particular sense for Poles to come over here and live on benefits: they’ll likely be as poorly-off as if they’d stayed in their own country. And in the worse cases, living 10 to a house.
The EU report is right. Many of the Poles over here are young – and with that determined and ambitious. They’re not going to achieve their goals by collecting dole money. On the contrary, they’re entrepreneurial, and what’s more, prepared to start at the bottom. They take the jobs the natives don’t want, make a go of it, and are soon climbing the ladder.
And that’s what causes some friction – not benefit tourism, as the EU report proves. What’s pitiful is that this populist Government – presumably driven by the Tories – is prepared to jump on the immigration bandwagon and politick over what is not, in reality, a major issue. Like there aren’t sufficient real problems to deal with, beginning with the economy..?
So, this EU broadside on the Government is very welcome, and I’m pleased to say caught the Government like a rabbit in the headlights. They couldn’t rebut the hard facts and figures, and in various interviews just kept wittering on that the public were very concerned about benefit tourism. Yes we are, if it can be shown to be happening to any material degree!
My own view is there’s a strong undercurrent of xenophobia in this country – I’m sorry to say I’ve noticed it amongst some of my own friends and colleagues. It’s whipped up by the likes of UKIP and Migration Watch, and has even entered the political mainstream: remember Labour leader Gordon Brown’s “British jobs for British workers”? Ed Milliband, his successor, who I do think should know better given his background, hasn’t been immune. And we’ve seen how a Conservative/Liberal Government behaves.
My eyes aren’t blinded to the reality. I’m sure there are some Polish benefit tourists. And a Tory backbencher focussed on Czech and Slovak migrants in pinch point constituencies like Peterborough. But for goodness sake: let’s base our judgements on the facts, and consign prejudice to the dustbin. That way, we’ll stem the tide of an increasing intolerance in this country that I, for one, don’t like at all.