Put quite simply, the idea of EU benefit scroungers draining UK resources is myth. Whilst undeniable that many EU citizens struggle with unemployment in the UK and subsequently rely on the state to help them get through these tough times with what meagre funds Job Seeker’s Allowance affords, recent figures have shown that on balance Britain sends out more benefits ‘scroungers’ than it receives.
In substantiating their vile xenophobic rhetoric, certain political parties – whose names do not deserve any more column inches than they are already afforded, regularly turn to shocking claims that Bulgarians and Romanians try to thieve as much as possible from the welfare state. This is fear politics and scapegoating at its finest. Unemployed immigrants occupy the midsection on the Right’s “who to hate this week?” Venn diagram, and the climate of ‘blame it on the EU’, which is sadly experiencing a renaissance at the moment.
The economies of both Spain and the Republic of Ireland remain crippled by the same recession from which the UK has begun to recover. In spite of this, and contrary to the myth of immigration-fuelled benefit ‘scrounging’, there are currently more British JSA claimants in each of those countries than there are Irish or Spanish claimants living in the UK. Even if this wasn’t the case, simple human compassion compels us to support those who have fallen on hard times, regardless of their place of birth, not least because they would, as these figures show, do the same.
Although Theresa May’s Home Office has quite a busy schedule these days, trying to scrap the Human Rights Act and imploring immigrants to “go home”, it is unlikely that such critical figures have evaded the ruling party’s gaze. In November last year, the Guardian highlighted May’s involvement in “delaying and manipulating the publication of an independent inspection” which criticized Britain’s asylum system. The Home Secretary and her department have precedent in this area of calculated politicking – suppressing information to the contrary and astronomically inflating even the smallest concern. It is then not ignorance which has bred rhetoric that paints the EU as something to be resented, but the intentional misleading of the British public in order to play to the polls.
Despite these figures, it is unlikely that the Right will decide to face up to the fact that steady, legal immigration is fundamentally and irrefutably a good thing. Whilst the free movement of people in pursuit of a better life is wholly reconcilable with neoliberal thought on the free-market which Farage so fetishises, his colleagues remain firmly committed to conjuring up images of immigrant-boogeymen snatching jobs from hard working Brits. All of this aside, with 2.7 million EU nationals living in Britain and only 2.4 per cent of them claiming JSA, the sum total of benefits claimants remains comparatively low.
Because it is easier to pedal tripe which places blame on the ‘other’ rather than address the real issues at hand, we will continue to see shocking headlines claiming we’d all be back at work if only ‘Johnny Foreigner’ went home. If we are after greater job security then the answer is not to isolate ourselves from a thriving international market, but to face up to the fact that the cycle of boom and bust economics is toxic and needs to change.
Image courtesy of ‘openDemocracy’ (Flickr)