UK Immigration Minister Damian Green claim the government has inherited a "worrying issue".
20 January 2012
UK immigration report finds over 370,000 migrants are on benefits
A report by the UK Immigration Minister Damian Green and Minister for Employment Chris Grayling has claimed that of the 5.5 million people currently claiming working-age benefits had not been UK nationals when they first registered claims.
The report states that more than 370,000 migrants who came to the country initially on a working or student UK visa are now claiming benefits.
The report's findings were compiled by comparing data from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), the UK Border Agency (UKBA) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). By comparing the nationalities of people entering the UK with those on benefits, the report claims the government is now aware, for the first time, the exact number of migrants claiming benefits.
Of the 371,000, more than 250,000 were from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) and over half were now British citizens with most others having a legitimate immigration status which qualified them for benefits.
The report has been quickly used by its Conservative authors to attack the previous Labour government's immigration policies, claiming that "Labour didn't care who landed in Britain" and that "Labour left our immigration system in a complete mess."
However, the ministers denied that their report was intended to shock its readers and admitted that the vast majority of the 371,000 were entitled to the benefits, claiming that the report was intended to clarify both the benefits system and UK immigration figures.
"I think it's really important for the credibility for our benefits system" said Mr Grayling "that we should understand the mix of people who come from other countries who are claiming benefits."
Eager to support their findings, the ministers carried out a follow up experiment with a representative sample of the 371,000.
Using a sample of 9,000 non-EEA nationals currently claiming benefits, 98% were found to have full entitlement to the benefits, including jobseeker's allowance, income support, carer's allowance and disability allowance.
The remaining 2% appeared to have "no lawful immigration status" and the DWP have begun investigating these cases.
Mr Green said "These findings uncover a worrying issue [the current government] have inherited, which is why we've ordered urgent work to pursue claimants suspected of abuse and to withdraw their benefits if they cannot prove they are entitled to a claim."
This report comes after controversial reports that rising migration to the UK was a contributing factor in UK unemployment rates, particularly among young people.
However, despite a report from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) claiming immigration had little impact on unemployment, the government is still keen to reduce net migration and prevent 'benefit tourists' abusing the system.
Labour has refuted the government's accusations, claiming "Tory ministers are resorting to rhetoric and misinformation to hide the reality of their failures on immigration and unemployment."
The UK Visa Bureau is an independent immigration consultancy specialising in helping people prepare for their UK Ancestry Visa application.