Cameron calls for tighter rules for immigrants

The Prime Minister says the UK is seen as a ‘soft touch’ for benefit tourists. But most migrants travel the globe to find work. Should nations welcome their efforts or erect more barriers?

This week anyone who has moved to the UK and wants to become a British citizen will have a new citizenship test to pass. The 24 questions have been updated but David Cameron has already – famously – failed, after an American television interviewer asked him a question featured in the test about Magna Carta.

Too difficult? Well, yesterday the Prime Minister decided to make an appeal to voters who believe it is too easy to come to the UK to live, work or settle, calling for the rules on who can claim benefits, NHS treatment and social housing to be tightened.

‘Ending the something-for-nothing culture has to apply to immigration as well as welfare,’ he said.

Some applauded, arguing that at last Mr Cameron was offering a response to concerns that immigration weakens the social fabric and depresses wages.

But others claimed the message was based on a false understanding of the facts: the Office for Budget Responsibility says immigration contributes to economic growth, and analysts rushed to point out that 7% of migrants use the welfare system compared to 17% of homegrown Britons. Ministers argued with doctors, and with each other, over whether use of NHS services by those who are not eligible was a small or significant problem, but health secretary Jeremy Hunt said fewer visitors should be entitled to free treatment anyway.

Mr Cameron said it was his ‘duty’ to address public anxieties about immigration. But one journalist on the Telegraph, a Conservative-supporting newspaper, said he should be convincing voters that immigration was in their long-term interest as a boost to the economy.

Open and shut case?

Nations have different attitudes to migrant workers and families, depending on their own history, geography and values. Some welcome all comers with open arms, eager to offer a home to anyone who might set themselves up, start earning and contributing taxes, and go on – who knows? – to win a Nobel Prize or make the country better in some other, more modest way.

The United States, for example, was founded on the idea that immigrants should be embraced, because they will strive to build a prosperous future for their families in the adoptive country. Now both sides of the US political divide are even discussing an amnesty for long-term illegal immigrants.

Should the UK wish to be seen, like America, as a ‘land of opportunity’? Or is it right to discourage economic migrants: of course, they might succeed in their new country, but some will fail. Should a country make itself as unattractive as possible to any who have even a chance of becoming a drain on resources?

You Decide

  1. Do you feel like a citizen where you live? What affects this feeling?
  2. What attracts you more: a ‘land of opportunity’ attitude? Or a country where barriers to immigration and claiming welfare are strict?


  1. Take the new UK Citizenship test! (You can find it in the links online).
  2. Design a short 10 question local test: which facts would demonstrate good understanding of your area or region? Would this help incoming families, or not?

Some People Say...

“No one in today’s world wants to live where he or she was born and raised.”

What do you think?

Q & A

What difference does immigration make to me?
It’s very likely that you yourself are a product of immigration. Perhaps one of your parents or grandparents came to your country from a foreign land in search of a better life; or perhaps you have foreign ancestors a little further back in your family tree.
And if not?
The whole English language is a product of cultures mixing because of immigration, for a start. If you have ever eaten at a Chinese, Indian or Thai restaurant, you have enjoyed the fruits of international migration. And it is beyond doubt that immigration has powerful economic effects, though not everyone agrees on whether its impact is good or bad.

Word Watch

Magna Carta
Latin for the ‘Great Charter’, this was a list of guaranteed liberties which English barons forced King John to sign in 1215. Although most of the items are irrelevant to modern life, the Magna Carta contains some rights that have survived until this day and is often seen as the foundation of the British freedom.
Nobel Prize
In 2010 the Nobel Physics Prize was awarded to two scientists at Manchester University, who were originally from Russia. They and six other Nobel laureates in the UK have criticised limits on immigration as deterring ‘the brightest and the best’.
United States
As immigrants arrived at the beginning of the 20th Century, the US welcomed them with this poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: ‘Give me your poor, your huddled masses, struggling to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.’
A measure which would allow long-term immigrants who entered illegally to stop evading the law and achieve proper citizenship. Advantages could include bringing more people into the legal, tax-paying, economy. Disadvantages could include encouraging more illegal immigration.

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