EU referendum: Migrants in UK say David Cameron's plan to curb benefits will not affect immigration

'None of us come here to claim benefits – I’ve been working with the wider migrant community and people come for work'

Paul Gallagher@PMGallagher1
Wednesday 03 February 2016 20:35
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David Cameron’s plan to ban EU migrants from qualifying for in-work benefits for four years will have little or no impact on the number coming to the UK - according to those already here.

“None of us come here to claim benefits,” said Maciej Dokurno, 41, who has lived in Fife for 12 years since arriving from Poland. “I’ve been working with the wider migrant community here in Scotland and people come here for work – and they are in work. The Prime Minister’s proposal will have no major effect at all on people wanting to come to the UK.”

Mr Dokurno works in public service helping local people into employment and said applying for in-work benefits is a complicated process that migrants cannot rely on.

“My biggest concern is that the proposals may result in people that are in ‘essential’ jobs, such as health and social care, are denied the same level of compensation that British employees will have,” he said.

The proposals came as “little surprise” to Natalia Paszkiewicz, 36, also from Poland who has lived in the UK since 2003. “It won’t deter anyone,” she said. “It is impossible for EU migrants to be on benefits and send money back home, which so many do. The proposals are just a political trick and an attempt to prove [the Tories] are tough on migrants. Sadly, it’s a reflection of the shift to the right of the political spectrum across the whole of Europe.”

Noel Smaragdakis, 28, arrived in England five years ago from Athens to study at the University of Kent. He now teaches literature and English predominately to ESOL students at a sixth form college in Covent Garden, London.

“The whole debate feels like Cameron wants to say ‘you can come here as long as we can get something from you, but then you have to get out’. “It feels like they’re trying to promote a one-way relationship.

“I’ve always been pro-European and pro-UK, but whenever I hear something on the news about what Cameron has said this time, what rights he wants to take away I feel a little bit ashamed.

“I’m here contributing to the economy and pay my taxes. In five and a half years I’ve claimed benefits for maybe two months, so I feel like I’ve given more than I’ve taken and then I’m presented like a criminal who has come here to take away British people’s jobs and their benefits. But I’ve helped British people get benefits more than I’ve got benefits myself.

“He’s trying to create this image of a bad EU migrant that doesn’t exist.”

Mr Smaragdakis said whenever he speaks to friends back in Greece considering coming to the UK, the welfare system is not a priority in their decision. “Usually the weather is why they don’t come – nothing to do with benefits. I have a lot of EU migrant friends and not a single one has come here for benefits.”

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