Cameron warns illegal immigrants: we will find you and send you home
PM’s threat comes as Labour and Ukip say crackdown on benefits for new arrivals from EU is not tough enough.
David Cameron has issued a direct threat to illegal immigrants that “we will find you and make sure you are sent back to the country you came from”, as Labour and Ukip attacked his latest crackdown on benefits for new arrivals from the European Union for not being tough enough.
The prime minister said he would make sure migrants from the EU would only be able to claim benefits for a maximum of three months, down from six months, unless they have very clear job prospects. The government claimed this would save the taxpayer £500m over the next five years.
But in a sign all parties are now anxious to be seen as committed to cutting immigration, both Labour and Ukip attacked the prime minister for not going far enough to tackle the issue.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow home secretary, said: “It’s almost a year and a half since Labour called for benefit restrictions on new migrants. In that time we’ve had reannouncement after reannouncement from the Tories, but little in the way of firm action.
“Behind the rhetoric the true picture of this government on immigration is one of failure, with net migration going up, despite David Cameron’s promise to get it down to the tens of thousands.”
Cameron has increased his rhetoric against immigration over the past year in an apparent effort to win back voters from Ukip and placate the right of his party. However, the government can do little to stop EU immigration because of free movement rules, meaning it can only embark on repeated efforts to tighten benefits for new arrivals.
The announcement was dismissed as window dressing by Labour MP Angela Smith, and “vacuous and cynical posturing” by Steven Woolfe, a Ukip immigration spokesman.
Estimates by the BBC’s World at One also suggested that fewer than 10,000 people would be affected by the changes, although this was rejected by Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, who had to admit he did not know the actual figure.
Amid criticism of the announcement, Cameron gave an interview to the BBC threatening illegal immigrants with deportation.
“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.
“We are also doing more today to close down bogus student colleges. We’ve already closed many of them and we will close down more. It’s right that the British people know that we have a fair immigration system that says to people: if you’re here illegally, you should go home.
“What we’re saying is that our changes today will save the British taxpayer half a billion pounds over the next five years, so that is a significant saving. But let’s be clear, some people are coming here to work, some people are coming here to claim and some people are coming here pretending to be students.
“I have a very clear approach to this, which is that if you don’t have a right to be here, you will be sent home, you shouldn’t be here. People want to know that we have a fair, legal migration system, but in terms of illegal migration, we will find you, we will send you home.”