Skip to navigation

Skip to main content

Migration News

contact us

August 1995, Volume 2, Number 8

British Crackdown on Immigrant Benefits

Claiming that nearly L100 million a year is lost in immigrant benefit fraud, the British Home Secretary announced a crackdown to spot suspected illegal aliens in welfare offices, hospitals and universities. The crackdown includes: stopping non-contributory benefits for illegal or temporary residents, tightening access to student awards and loans, legislation to make non citizens ineligible for social housing, and asking hospital trusts and general practitioners to prevent ineligible foreigners from getting access to free NHS treatment.

Most of these measures are not expected to be implemented until 1996.

Four government departments will work closely with the Home Office on these proposals - prompting concern that the Department of Education and Employment will encourage head teachers to see if any of their pupils come from families of illegal immigrants.

The Department of the Environment will ensure that people from abroad are not entitled to council houses; the Department of Social Security has already tightened up procedures to prevent illegal immigrants from claiming income support, housing benefits and council tax benefits. The Department of Health will work on better ways to control access to free NHS treatment.

Some teachers and health professionals were angry that they would be asked to become immigration police. Unision, the public services union, claimed that the plan was an attempt to get immigration enforcement "on the cheap," and would undermine the integrity of public service.

No one knows how many illegal aliens are in the UK; estimates range from 20,000 to 1 million. In 1994, 5,032 illegal aliens were apprehended in the UK.

The British Home Office says that the number of illegal immigrants has almost doubled since 1989 to an estimated 13,000 in 1994. In 1994, 23,000 of the 66,000 passengers stopped at posts and airports were refused entry, compared to 17,000 of 61,000 in 1992.

Newspaper stories report that there continue to be large numbers of sham marriages in the UK. Marriage to a British national includes the right to live permanently in the UK after a one-year probationary period, and it is asserted that especially ethnic youth are attracted to the $500 to $2,000 paid for marrying a foreigner. An investigation revealed that, in one office, 146 of 154 marriages involving Ghanaians and Nigerians were bogus.

France in December 1994 proposed that all EU nations introduce employer sanctions, and that public servants be required to report suspected illegal aliens to immigration agencies. The UK has 800 immigration officers who deal with internal enforcement, but no employer sanctions or reporting requirements.

David Millward, "Sham marriage racket revealed," Daily Telegraph, July 29, 1995; Sonia Purnell, "Number of illegal migrants doubles," Daily Telegraph, July 20, 1995. Greg Hadfield, "Mail Investigation Into the Widespread Abuse of the Immigration Loopholes," Daily Mail, July 19, 1995. Glenda Cooper and Heather Mills, "Clampdown on Illegal Migrants 'will create fear,'" The Independent, July 19, 1995. "Home Office--New Curbs on Illegal Immigration," UK Government Press Releases, July 18, 1995. Alan Raybould, "Race Resurfaces as Political Issue in Britain," Reuters, July 17, 1995. David Millward, "Heads told to inform on illegal immigrants," The Daily Telegraph, July 19, 1995. "Shop a Fraud Storm," Daily Mirror, July 19, 1995. "Staff Urged to Inform on Immigrants," The Scotsman, July 19, 1995. "Excessive Use of Force," The Economist, July 15, 1995. John Palmer, "Britain Threatens to Veto EU Open Borders," The Guardian, July 13, 1995.