Prime Minister David Cameron unveiled a sweeping immigration crackdown on Monday (March 25th).
Under his plans, access to the National Health Service will be curbed, new migrants will have to wait up to five years for social housing, fines for employers who hire illegal workers will be doubled, and landlords who let to illegal immigrants could face fines too.
In a speech that may stir controversy in Romania and Bulgaria, Cameron said he wants to stop Britain's welfare system being "a soft touch" for migrants.
"We made significant changes to our policies in the Home Office to get net migration down. But now what we need to do is to work across government so that our immigration policy is factored in to our benefits system, our health system, and our housing system. And let me set out how we are going to do this. By stopping our benefits system from being such a soft touch, by making entitlement to our key public services something migrants earn, not an automatic right, and by bringing the full force of government together to crack down on illegal working," Cameron said.
The lifting of European Union freedom of movement restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians has triggered warnings in the right-leaning press of "hordes" of welfare-hungry migrants descending on Britain at a time when the economy is stagnant and public resources are being squeezed.
Cameron's initiative reflects a change in the political mainstream after years of politicians shying away from the issue. All three main parties now talk tough on immigration after polls showed it had become one of voters' main worries ahead of a 2015 election and a once derided anti-immigration party surged in the polls.