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Britain's Cameron vows to curb benefits for EU migrants

British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday (July 29) announced plans to halve the time during which EU migrants with no realistic job prospects can claim benefits in the UK.

LONDON: British Prime Minister David Cameron on Tuesday (July 29) announced plans to halve the time during which EU migrants with no realistic job prospects can claim benefits in the UK.

Cameron unveiled the plans as part of new "Britain first" immigration policies aimed at luring voters away from eurosceptic rivals ahead of next year's general election. The reforms mean that legal European Union migrants without clear job prospects will lose out-of-work benefits after three months, rather than the current six months.

"We want an immigration system that puts Britain first," Cameron said at the site of a dawn raid on illegal migrants in Slough, a town west of London with a large Muslim population. Cameron said the new changes, which will be introduced in January, show "you cannot expect to come to Britain and get something for nothing".

His centre-right Conservatives want to win back voters who flocked to the anti-EU, anti-immigration UK Independence Party in European parliament elections in May.

EU rules mean that Cameron cannot introduce a cap on migrants from the 28-nation bloc, whose numbers rose to 201,000 in the year ending December 2013, up from 158,000 a year earlier. But in an article for the Daily Telegraph newspaper, Cameron set out the plan to reduce the amount of time EU migrants can claim unemployment benefits.

The government did not give figures for how many people would be affected, but the Department for Work and Pensions said 121,280 EU nationals were claiming working-age benefits in the UK in February last year, an increase of 56,190 since 2008.

'WE WILL FIND YOU'

The government will also "massively restrict" the automatic advertising of jobs in Britain on a common EU portal when they are listed on the national site, Cameron said. Recruitment agencies also will be banned from advertising jobs in Britain solely to people abroad, instead being required to also advertise in English in Britain.

The government aims to make it easier to identify illegal immigrants and deport people, Cameron said. "We will make it harder for you to have a home, to get a car, to get a job, to get a bank account and when we find you -- and we will find you -- we'll make sure you are sent back to the country you came from," he said at the immigration raid site, which is just miles from the elite Eton College boys-only boarding school that Cameron attended.

From November landlords will be legally required to check the immigration status of tenants. New rules to prevent illegal immigrants opening bank accounts will be introduced in December, the prime minister said.

The government has begun revoking driving licenses that belong to illegal immigrants, withdrawing 3,150 so far, he added. Education colleges will be under increased pressure to filter out students who may be refused visas, as they will lose their licenses if 10 percent of those they accept are refused permits, Cameron said.

The Conservatives had promised to reduce net migration to under 100,000 people by 2015 in their 2010 general election manifesto.

The opposition centre-left Labour party has a six-point lead over the Conservatives, with 33 per cent support compared to 27 per cent, while UKIP has 17 per cent of the vote, a ComRes poll showed on Tuesday.

Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain's membership of the EU if he is re-elected.

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