The Great British Benefit Debate

More than 371,00 immigrants who were admitted to Britain claimed state benefits in the UK last year, according to official figures compiled by the government for the very first time.

The analysis by the government found there were 371,000 foreign-born claimants for out-of-work benefits, out of a total 5.5 million recipients. Of these, 258,000 were from outside the European Economic Area.

The stats will no doubt make many British citizens wary of migrants. This shouldn’t be so. Most immigrants come to the UK to work and make a massive contribution to Britain – especially London.

However I can’t help questioning why so many migrants, are allowed to claim benefits such as the jobseeker’s allowance. I say this as someone who has spent the last five years working abroad in the Middle East, Caribbean and Asia.

I chose to go abroad partly out of a desire to travel and see some of the worlds, but also because job opportunities in my field (the media) were (and are) few and far between in Britain. There are many positives to working overseas but there are negative too: namely as a Brit, I had limited rights. It is not something I thought about when the party was in full swing but, when the good times stopped rolling (around 2009) I learnt the hard way that I had to fend for myself.

I was living and working in the Cayman Islands at the time and when my company was forced to face up to reality of the recession and make cutbacks, was given – along with my housemate and a whole host of foreign friends in the same boat – two weeks to find another job or get off the island. Meanwhile, former colleagues living and working in Dubai faced deportation. As for China? Without a working visa – which is only valid if you have a job – you’re on your own.

Don’t get me wrong: I am by no means anti-immigration as I hope my interview with Holocaust survivor, Hermann Hirschberger helps make clear. However, if Brits have limited benefit rights abroad, surely it’s only right and fair that the same rule applies to immigrants to the UK?

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