Socialist Worker

Migrants speak out after Cameron announces attack on their benefits

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2381

Many striking Mitie cleaners are migrants who came to Britain to work

Many striking Mitie cleaners are migrants who came to Britain to work (Pic: Guy Smallman)

David Cameron has announced that he will stop Romanians and Bulgarians from having full rights to claim benefits when European Union (EU) restrictions on their settling in Britain are lifted in January.

The prime minister says he will stop people from the two countries from receiving jobseekers allowance and other benefits for up to a year after they arrive.

His measures are a desperate sop to Ukip and the right wing of his party. 

Romanian migrant Valentina has lived in Britain for five years. She works as a cleaner for Mitie. 

She told Socialist Worker, “If we come to this country it’s to work—not to stay home and get benefits.

 “When I first came here it was difficult to get a job—it took nearly three months to get a work permit and my husband’s income was too high to claim benefits.”

Her husband Mihai, who is also Romanian works as a lorry driver. Valentina says he is “quite well paid”. They have a two year old daughter.

Valentina added, “I was very happy to get a job and it’s been much better. Especially now us Mitie cleaners have been on strike for a living wage.”

A study published earlier this year showed that only 13,000 eastern Europeans were claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance (JSA). That is about 0.9 percent of the 1.44 million people claiming JSA. 


As with other benefits the proportion of immigrants claiming it is lower than among the host population.

No serious commentators think that most eastern Europeans come to Britain for benefits. 

When media commentators try and present eastern European migrants as scroungers who come to live on benefits they ignore that most benefits are claimed by people in work, but paid low wages.

Even those who complain about the number of people who have come to Britain for example from Poland in the past decade accept that almost all of those who travel want work. 

And they pay more in taxes than they take out in benefits. 

Yet more than 30 Tory MPs are trying to push through an amendment to Cameron’s changes that would extend restrictions on Bulgarians and Romanians until 2018.

Right wing politicians point out that more people came from eastern Europe when the EU expanded eastward than was originally predicted in 2004. 

They blame these migrants for low wages and social problems since. 

But the economic crisis which has caused austerity across Europe since 2008 was created by bankers and bosses—not immigrants.

Socialist Worker has always been against all restrictions on workers moving from one country to another. Controls do nothing to improve workers conditions and are used to divide workers against each other.

Names of migrants have been changed

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Article information

Tue 26 Nov 2013, 17:39 GMT
Issue No. 2381
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