UK moots blocking health access for EU migrants

30.01.13 @ 08:46

  1. By Benjamin Fox
  2. Benjamin email

BRUSSELS - EU migrants could be prevented from using Britain's National Health Service (NHS) under government measures to dissuade Romanian and Bulgarian citizens moving to the UK.

  • Harper: 'We have a National Health Service, not an international health service' (Photo: surroundsound500)

Mark Harper MP, immigration minister, indicated on Monday (28 January) that migrants without a job could be blocked from using NHS services and forced to have private health insurance.

The government is also considering whether to deport migrants who do not find a job within three months.

"EU students and those that are self-sufficient should not be a burden on the host member state, which means they should have things like health insurance. We have a National Health Service, not an international health service," Harper said.

Hsrper spoke in the context of a British debate on what to do about Bulgaria and Romania.

The two countries joined the EU in 2007, with a number of EU countries, including Britain, putting in place transitional rules limiting their right to live and work elsewhere in the EU.

But the rules expire at the end of 2013 and it is impossible under EU law to continue them.

Speaking with reporters during a daily government press briefing on Tuesday (29 January), David Cameron's spokesman admitted that the government is looking at ways to curb economic migration.

"The issue here is around dealing with potential damage to the UK's labour market and potential scope for curbing immigration to that end," he said.

He added that "we're in the process of considering what we may be able to do. Clearly there is a European legal framework within which we have to operate. Clearly there may be some areas where we may want to co-operate with other member states."

A study released earlier this month by MigrationWatch, an influential group that lobbies in favour of tighter control of immigration, estimated that 250,000 Romanian and Bulgarian citizens could arrive in the UK over the next five years.

MigrationWatch claims that Britain has seen net migration of 3 million since 1997.

It also issued a statement that the coalition was "very conscious of the previous government’s catastrophic under estimate of immigration from Poland and other east European countries in 2004."

The group's chairman, Sir Anthony Green, warned that migration levels were "likely to be on a scale that will have significant consequences for housing and public services."

The Conservative-led coalition is anxious to keep to its ambitious target to limit net migration under 100,000 per year.

According to the UK's Office of National Statistics, net migration between March 2011 and 2012 stood at 183,000, well down on 242,000 from the previous year.