London: In a bid to cut down on immigration, British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday announced a string of tough measures to over-turn the country's "soft touch" image, restricting new immigrants' rights to unemployment, health benefits and a "home on arrival".
"Under the last government, immigration in this country was too high and out of control. Put simply, Britain was a soft touch," he said during his long-awaited speech on immigration.
"There are concerns, deeply held, that some people might be able to come and take advantage of our generosity without making a proper contribution to our country. These concerns are not just legitimate; they are right and it is a fundamental duty of every mainstream politician to address them.
We cannot have a culture of something for nothing. New migrants should not expect to be given a home on arrival," he said during a keynote address at University Campus Suffolk on the Ipswich Waterfront.
Under some of the latest measures announced on Tuesday, access to social housing will be linked to new rigorous tests and changes to healthcare would be introduced, with the UK getting "better at reciprocal charging" of foreign governments for treatment provided to non-working overseas nationals.
Unemployment benefits for non-UK nationals will cease at the end of six months from early next year, largely aimed at countering fears of an influx of Romanians and Bulgarians once movement restrictions are lifted on the relatively new European Union (EU) member-states at the end of this year.
According to the Prime Minister, immigrants in future would be "subject to full conditionality and work search requirements and you will have to show you are genuinely seeking employment if you fail that test, you will lose your benefit."
"And as a migrant, we're only going to give you six months to be a job-seeker. After that benefits will be cut off unless you really can prove not just that you are genuinely seeking employment but also that you have a genuine chance of getting a job. We're going to make that assessment a real and robust one and, yes, it's going to include whether your ability to speak English is a barrier to work," he said.