Socialist Worker

Migrants’ rights under attack as Tories plan to block benefits

The Tories are continuing to bash migrants with nasty new measures restricting access to benefits. But people are getting organised to say no to scapegoating, says Ken Olende

Issue No. 2392

Migrant workers fighting for justice in the workplace

Migrant workers fighting for justice in the workplace (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Tory work and Pensions minister Iain Duncan Smith is ramming through new measures to attack migrants from the European Union (EU).

He thinks they should earn £150 a week for at least three months before they can claim benefits. The move was set to be introduced on Saturday of this week.

It is part of a concerted effort to blame migrants for social problems in Britain. 

Duncan Smith said Britain has to guard against EU migrants who “come to our country and take advantage of our benefits system”.

“The British public are rightly concerned that migrants should contribute to this country, and not be drawn here by the attractiveness of our benefits system,” he said.

But there is no evidence at all that any significant number of people have done this or plan to do so. Before the current wave of media attention on Romanians and Bulgarians, Poles were seen as the group that arrived in largest numbers. 

A government-funded report last year said stories of benefit tourists were “disconnected with reality”. EU migrants are 45 percent less likely to claim benefits than British-born workers.

And Duncan Smith does not explain why workers from eastern Europe on the minimum wage should not have a right to benefits. 

Investigated

Anyone earning below the threshold will be further investigated to see if their work is “genuine and effective”. 

Far from protecting British claimants from foreigners, this is part of a process of making benefits harder to claim for everyone. 

A meeting in a north London church hall brought Polish workers together last Saturday afternoon to oppose discrimination. 

They also supported the Stand Up to Racism and Fascism demonstration on 22 March.

Jacek Szymanski was one of the organisers of the meeting. He is a forklift driver who has been in Britain for eight years. 

He told Socialist Worker, “We have a big community here. There are something like 700,000 Polish workers in Britain, yet they are not organised at all.

“Politicians are using immigration as a focal point for the whole question of austerity politics now. 

“I think it is in our common interest to engage in the struggle against austerity alongside English workers.”

One speaker at the meeting said, “We need to organise to help our own affairs. Most of us work long hours. I had to take time off just to attend this meeting. 

“We had Solidarity in the past, but since then we’ve had years of neoliberal shock therapy. People now believe in individual solutions.”

Preparations continue for the protests on 22 March. 

The campaign’s official website is now online with details of preparations for the events, including local rallies and transport to the demonstrations from around Britain. 

Protests will be held in London, Glasgow and Cardiff as part of an international day of action.

Visit standuptoracism.org.uk and download leaflets and posters

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