Tamara Cohen, Daily Mail (London), December 8, 2008
Immigrants will have wait up to 10 years for the right to claim UK benefits and council housing in the toughest crackdown seen for decades, it emerged last night.
All legal migrants will have to serve a five year ‘probationary citzienship’ before being considered for a passport, immigration minister Phil Woolas said.
Those who work hard, are law-abiding and do voluntary work will be eligible for benefits one or two years afterwards.
But others will have to wait another five years before they can claim any benefits at all, in order to deter migrants who see Britain as a soft touch for benefit claimants.
Mr Woolas said: ‘Entitlement to benefits should be for citizens of our country, not other people. If you are a citizen you have earned the right to benefits. People must show they are here to work.’
The measures which will help to safeguard jobs for British workers during the recession, will be unveiled in a new Borders, Immigration and Citizenship bill to be published in January.
It follows the news that Afghan mother-of-seven Toorpakai Saeidi was living in a £1.2 million mansion in West London and claiminig £175,000 per year in benefits at the taxpayer’s expense.
The minister also conceded that the Government was partly to blame for lax immigration rules.
Last October Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was forced to make the embarrassing admission that the number of foreign workers entering Britain since 1997 was 1.1 million—a staggering 300,000 more than official figures recorded.
Mr Woolas said: ‘It has been too easy for illegal immigrants to stay in this country. We have not counted them in and out.’
In his previous role as communities minister, Mr Woolas revealed he had received death threats.
He added that the Government was to blame for letting ethnic communities become ghettos where no one had to learn English.
He said: ‘Why is it my little boy’s school has ‘Welcome’ in 20 different languages? Immigrants must learn English.’
The minister pledged to keep Britain’s population which is currently 61 million, at below 70 million, and to stand up to the Prime Minister on immigration issues.
‘If I lose my job, I lose my job’, he said.
He has courted controversy for his direct approach since he being appointed to the immigration post just three months ago.
Last month Mr Woolas told reporters that most asylum seekers were economic migrants rather than refugees and accused lawyers and charities working for asylum seekers of ‘playing the system’.