THE?Government insisted yesterday it would resist EU demands to make it easier for immigrants to claim British benefits as an explosive new Brussels report sparked fresh concern.
A study to be published today found there were more than 600,000 unemployed and economically inactive migrants from other EU countries living here last year.
A leaked copy of the report is said to estimate that the “non-active” migrants, who include older teenagers, pensioners, students and housewives, cost the NHS alone £1.5billion a year.
The report for EU Employment Commissioner Laszlo Andor is also said to have found the number of EU migrants coming to Britain without a job rose by 73 per cent in the three years to 2011, when the eurozone crisis was at its height.
Controversially, it insists there is “little evidence” that Britain is a victim of mass “benefit tourism” where people travel here specifically to claim our relatively generous welfare payments.
Mr Andor will use the report to support his case against the UK in the European Court of Justice.
He says that while EU rules let member states set conditions on immigrants’ benefit rights, Britain illegally discriminates by setting an extra “right to reside” test for foreigners including some who have been working and paying taxes here for some time.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has vowed to fight the case.
Conservative eurosceptic MP Douglas Carswell said: “These figures show that the wave of benefit migrants has become a tsunami of economic refugees fleeing the eurozone crisis to try to find jobs here.”
Stephen Booth, of the Open Europe thinktank, said: “The European Commission is, wilfully or otherwise, presenting this whole issue misleadingly. It is the Commission that is attempting to move the goalposts by taking the UK to court over the existing safeguards that ensure the UK’s welfare system is not abused.”
A Work and Pensions Department spokeswoman said the Government was strengthening the residence test and putting a limit on how long some migrants could claim benefits.
“It is important to ensure a fair system which provides support for genuine workers and jobseekers, but doesn’t allow people to come to this country and take advantage,” she said.
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