Migrants claim 170m in benefits as number of arrivals increases to 800,000
By MATTHEW HICKLEY
Last updated at 12:25pm on 27th February 2008
The massive influx of eastern European immigrant workers to Britain has topped 800,000 in the four years since Poland and seven other former communist states joined the European Union.
In the last 12 months, the cost of paying benefits to the newcomers has more than doubled to an estimated 170million a year, with 145,000 immigrants now claiming state handouts.
The Government predicted 13,000 arrivals a year when opting to open Britain's labour markets to millions of new EU citizens – while most other countries imposed restrictions.
Eastern Europeans are heading to the UK at a rate of 600 a day as benefit claims double
But the scale of immigration has proved to be 15 times greater.
In 2007, another 214,510 eastern Europeans registered to work in Britain, equal to 600 arrivals a day.
Yesterday, UK business leaders said employers would continue to welcome the new arrivals because their work ethic is “so much better than domestic workers” who suffer from a “skills shortage and increasing welfare dependency”.
The figures published yesterday do not include self-employed eastern Europeans such as plumbers or builders, or 30,000 from Romania and Bulgaria which joined the EU later, meaning that the real total of new arrivals is likely to be well over a million in four years – equivalent to a city the size of Birmingham.
Eastern European immigrants can claim benefits after working here for 12 months – including child benefit for children who have stayed with relatives back in their home countries.
The Home Office acknowledges that benefits claims are increasing but insists they “remain low”.
The numbers in receipt of benefits more than doubled last year, rising by 109 per cent in 12 months to 145,000.
Child benefit is the most common payment, now paid to 88,000 eastern European families, double the figure a year earlier, at an estimated cost of 72million a year.
The next most popular benefit is tax credits, claimed by 51,518 immigrants and costing taxpayers around 70million a year.
Jobseekers allowance and income support are claimed by 3,385 and 1,373 respectively, cost-more than 14million per year, while 178 eastern European immigrants now claim state pension credit, worth 114 per week, costing more than 670,000 a year.
Just over 1,000 are receiving help for homelessness.
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said the arrival of so many immigrants meant that “our housing and public service infrastructure have come under severe pressure with local authorities and council tax payers having to shoulder the burden”.
Local authorities in some areas have warned that public services such as schools are coming under intense strain.
The Local Government Association urged ministers to set up a contingency fund to help councils cope.
Chairman Sir Simon Milton said migration was benefiting Britain economically, but added: “The problem is that the money being generated isn't necessarily finding its way back down to the local level.”
David Frost, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Employers up and down the country tell me they take on migrant workers because their work ethic is so much better than domestic workers.”
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