Cameron unveils sweeping immigration crackdown
Updated: 2013-03-25 09:28
LONDON - Prime Minister David Cameron will unveil a sweeping immigration crackdown on Monday aimed at discouraging migrants from Romania and Bulgaria from moving to Britain when EU restrictions on their right to travel and work there expire next year.
Under his plans, access to Britain's National Health Service will be curbed, new migrants will have to wait up to five years for social housing, fines for employers who hire illegal workers will be doubled, and landlords who let to illegal immigrants could face fines too.
The lifting of European Union freedom of movement restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians has triggered warnings in the right-leaning press of "hordes" of welfare-hungry migrants descending on Britain at a time when the economy is stagnant and public resources are being squeezed.
Cameron's initiative reflects a change in the political mainstream after years of politicians shying away from the issue. All three main parties now talk tough on immigration after polls showed it had become one of voters' main worries ahead of a 2015 election and a once derided anti-immigration party surged in the polls.
In a speech that may stir controversy in Romania and Bulgaria, Cameron will say he wants to stop Britain's welfare system being "a soft touch" for migrants, saying that access to core public services is something newcomers should earn rather than automatically receive.
"Net migration needs to come down radically from hundreds of thousands a year to just tens of thousands," he will say, outlining measures that will apply to other EU nationals too.
The UK Independence Party or UKIP, has thrived in the polls after campaigning against "open-door" immigration, humiliating Cameron's ruling Conservative party in a vote for a parliamentary seat three weeks ago.
Cameron is expected to say: "While I have always believed in the benefits of immigration I have also always believed that immigration has to be properly controlled.
"As I have long argued, under the last government this simply wasn't the case. Immigration was far too high and badly out of control."