Migrants and Citizens

The Hallowe’en terrorist attack that left 8 dead in New York is believed to have been carried out by Sayfullo Saipov, a Uzbekistan national. President Trump lost no time in linking terrorism and immigration:

“The terrorist came into our country through what is called the “Diversity Visa Lottery Program,” a Chuck Schumer beauty. I want merit based.”

“I am calling on Congress to TERMINATE the diversity visa lottery program that presents significant vulnerabilities to our national security.”

So just what is the diversity visa lottery program?

The diversity visa lottery program is often called the Green Card lottery. Every year 50,000 visas – which make the holder eligible for permanent residency and offer a pathway to future US citizenship – are given to nationals from countries with historically low rates of migration to the United States. Countries with higher rates of migration – calculated as states from which 50,000 of more citizens have immigrated to the US in the past five years – are excluded.[1] For the lottery which is currently running (until 22 November 2017), for Green Cards to be awarded in 2019, that means citizens of 19 countries are barred.  This list includes Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, India Pakistan, and the United Kingdom (except Northern Ireland – more on that later).  The visas quotas are distributed across six geographic regions, and a maximum of 7% of total DV winners can come from any one country. Over 9 million people entered the DV Lottery in 2016.

Can anyone “win” a visa if they apply?

No. There are still minimum requirements which must be met. Although it is free to apply, the lottery still requires applicants to demonstrate that they have a certain degree of skill and wealth. Applicants must have a high school education or equivalent professional experience, and they must also, if selected, be able to prove they will not be a “public charge”. This requires them to show proof of funds – or a pre-existing job offer – which equates to income of greater than 125% of the US Government’s current poverty guideline (in 2017, that was $30 750 for a family of 4).  If you can’t show that, the other option is to depend upon connections, by getting a relative or friend already legally resident in the US to sponsor your application.

The DV lottery isn’t an option for the very poorest: they’re unlikely to meet education or financial requirements. Nevertheless, compared to other migration systems which are designed to weed out the poor, the DV Lottery stands out as offering relative equality of opportunity, including those from poor developing countries who don’t have family in the US who qualify to sponsor them for a reunification visa, and aren’t eligible for a high-skilled H1-B visa. In the past decade the Green Card lottery has become a particularly important route for African migrants to the US.

What are my chances?

When it comes to this Green Card lottery, you actually are more likely to win than to be struck by lightning: the odds of “winning” the DV lottery are pretty reasonable. The US government actually selects 125,000 entrants at random for further processing – meaning that in last year’s lottery, about 1 in every 100 applicants “won” a visa processing number.  The extra “winners” are chosen because every year, less than half of successful applicants actually complete their Green Card application – failing to finish the paperwork in time, or falling short of the eligibility criteria.  Despite Trump’s stated concerns over vetting, lottery winners must successfully pass through a series of interviews and have all their papers in order before they can arrive in the US.  Their biometric data is also collected.

So the Green Card Lottery helps the poorest migrants?

Social mobility isn’t the point of the lottery – ostensibly, it’s ethnic and cultural “diversity”. But in practice the “diversity” can sometimes be hard to spot. The visas’ regional quota system means the “winners” of the 2015 lottery included a number of citizens from wealthy developed countries: 1798 Australians, 1354 Germans, 816 French and 589 New Zealanders.  Another quirk of the system: quite a number of Green Card winners are already in the United States, legally residing as workers or students on visas that don’t make them eligible for permanent residency.  For these DV entrants, the Green Card lottery is less a ticket to the US and more a means of escaping other notoriously slow-moving and bureaucratic immigration channels.

Why is there a Diversity Visa lottery in the first place – was it a “Chuck Schemer beauty”?

Far from being intended to promote diversity, the DV lottery actually began as a classic example of pork barrel politics.[2] In 1965, the Immigration and Nationality Act finally opened the US up to non-white immigration (ethnic and racial quotas introduced in 1924 had effectively prevented any non-white immigration, reserving half of visas for German, British and Irish migrants, and allocating just  2% of visas to non-Europeans).   The 1965 Immigration Act was a vital step away from the use of migration quotas to institutionalise racial discrimination.  Yet for the Irish and Italian communities – who had benefited from the extremely generous quotas on offer over the past four decades – the 1965 reforms actually reduced their opportunity to immigrate legally to the US.  The result was that in the late 1980s, a number of politicians representing Irish and Italian communities in the US – sought to redress this loss by introducing a “diversity lottery”. This would offer – especially at the outset – additional visas to those nations “adversely affected” by the immigration reforms of 1965. And the most “adversely affected”? The Irish.  From 1992-4, 40% of the diversity lottery winners were Irish citizens. Remember I said we’d get back to why Northern Irish residents can still apply for the lottery, even though other British citizens can’t?  That’s a legacy from the early days of the lottery.  Chuck Schumer was one of a number of Representatives and Senators who collaborated on the program.  More famous advocates at the time included Senator Teddy Kennedy.

So is the DV lottery a stitch-up?

Critics today certainly argue that the programme is ripe for corruption, with many self-appointed “visa agents” in sending countries trying to fraudulently charge applicants fees for their services. And there are charges that these “winners” don’t deserve immediate access to green cards and permanent residency, especially when many skilled workers holding H1-B visas are forced to wait years before they are granted anything other than temporary status.   There’s also the argument that privileging “diversity” over other forms of migration is not in the US’ interest. This in effect returns to the idea that it’s those with skills, money or connections who should be admitted, because this is both fairer to “the brightest and the best” who want to migrate, and more likely to serve US interests.

In 2013, with lobbyists for a number of industries keen to secure higher numbers of H1-B and other temporary visas for highly-skilled migrants, the Senate agreed to scrap the Green Card lottery and opening up more labour market visas instead. That immigration reform bid failed in the House, but it’s worth noting that Chuck Schumer was one of the “Gang of Eight” who came up with the plan.  Given the complex politics surrounding immigration, it seems unlikely that Trump’s call to scrap the DV lottery will gain much traction in Congress, except as a quid pro quo for some other concession (DACA, anyone?)

Does anyone think the Green Card Lottery is a good idea?

Philosophers and economists argue that lotteries can be the fairest way to distribute a good when demand outstrips supply, as is the case with US visas. African migrants have been particularly vocal in expressing concerns about the possible ending of the lottery, largely because there are relatively few other routes available to them. Visa lotteries – by distributing a small number of visas on the basis of luck, not skill – help to counter a global drift towards migration systems that lock those without connections out.

The counter-argument, of course, is that the US isn’t just “distributing” visas: it’s also “accumulating” migrants, and not all migrants are equal. Choosing blindly may be just, but it’s not necessarily strategic, nor is it in the national interest.  If you follow this logic, visas shouldn’t be distributed by ballot: they should be auctioned.

Yet other defenders point to less tangible benefits. The DV lottery contributes to the idea of America as a place where anyone can come and work for a better life. It helps build the idea of an open and welcoming America prepared to give all-comers a chance. The mythology of the US as a nation of immigrants is a powerful story, but it’s one that doesn’t bear close scrutiny. The US immigration system as a whole is bureaucratic, complicated and costly: the continued existence of Green Card lottery helps to shore up the ideal of America as a place where newcomers can still arrive with nothing and build a new life.

Will the Green Card lottery survive?

For the DV lottery to end, Congress has to act. There is bipartisan support for reform: the Senate has already voted once before to scrap the lottery.  But that was as part of a comprehensive immigration package. It’s not clear whether there’s any interest in just getting rid of the Green Card lottery.  For businesses and families, the Green Card lottery is expendable.  Businesses want more visas for workers with the specific skills they need.  Families want to keep reunification channels open. Both routes have already been threatened by Trump’s administration. Campaigners for undocumented children and their parents want a pathway to legal residency and citizenship and a stop on deportation processes.

For all these groups, the DV lottery is relatively unimportant. By giving the lottery new political weight, Trump’s statements this week may actually open up the opportunity for negotiation on these other issues.  It’s not too hard to imagine a compromise being struck whereby Congress agrees to end the DV lottery in exchange for protecting some of the other immigration programmes under fire.

But equally, it’s not too hard to imagine Congress doing nothing at all.

And if that’s case, the Green Card lottery will continue to offer would-be immigrants from around the globe a chance every year to see if their number comes up, and allow a lucky few winners to start a new life in America.

Should the Green Card lottery survive?

The question of whether the DV lottery will survive is ultimately a political one.  The question of whether it should survive is harder to answer. Trump’s concerns about security are ill-founded: there’s no evidence that the lottery is any more liable to being “used” by terrorists than other visa categories (follow the fear of infiltration to its logical conclusion, and you’ll end with totally closed borders). The diversity lottery is vulnerable to corruption and fraud — but the victims are applicants who pay scam agents and not the US.

So the real question is whether a lottery is the best way to distribute some US visas to would-be migrants. Many would argue the lottery should be scrapped because it doesn’t serve the national interest. And at first glance, the idea that immigrants should be admitted on “merit” and not chance is seductive.  It’s particularly attractive to those who can make a claim that their employees or family members “deserve” a visa most, or who can afford to pay for visas through auctions or investment schemes.  But the total number of US visas available is not fixed: this is not a zero-sum game. There’s no reason why securing more H1-B visas, for instance, requires fewer visas to be available through the lottery. And it’s worth remembering that the DV lottery is tiny: 50,000 places are at stake. The US welcomes a million immigrants a year.

 

In the final analysis, the best case for keeping the DV lottery isn’t one about numbers.  It’s one about identity: American identity. And it’s one about hope.  The American dream is rooted in the ideal that with luck and hard work you can come to the US and beat the odds. It’s a myth —  American immigration history has always been complicated by inequality and prejudice and displacement — but the DV lottery is a tiny way in which that myth is made a little more real. In the end, the most compelling case for keeping the DV lottery isn’t about the migrants at all: it’s about America.

In-depth

For anyone interested in learning more about the experience of Green Card lottery winners, I would highly recommend listening to BBC/NPR radio documentary “Abdi and the Golden Ticket”.

You can find another great personal account of applying for the Green Card lottery in the New York Times here 

For policy analysis, check out the Migration Policy Institute’s work on this subject here.

[1] Although this number is calculated without including those admitted as refugees or asylum seekers, or through other humanitarian visa programmes like NACARA, or those admitted as diversity visa-holders.  This explains why citizens of countries like Iraq, Cuba and Guatemala remain eligible for the lottery, despite more than 50,000 nationals from these countries having arrived in the US in the past 5 years.

[2] Law, A. O. ‘The Diversity Visa Lottery: A Cycle of Unintended Consequences in United States Immigration Policy’Journal of American Ethnic History  Vol. 21, No. 4 (Summer, 2002), pp. 3-29: p.21

    In a week when The Guardian attracted global attention for reporting that ‘thousand of Britons on benefits across EU’, and Philip Hammond, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, made headlines for claiming that Britain is ‘wide open’ to EU freeloaders,  immigration and welfare are back in the news.  But do we really need to worry about “benefit tourists”?

    Freeloaders?

    Among the chief reasons why British politicians – and the British public – claim to mistrust the European Union’s is a concern that the UK is open for ‘freeloading” EU exploiting the welfare state – so-called “benefit tourists”.1 The fear is that EU free movement rights are open to abuse, as poor citizens – especially those from Eastern and Central Europe move West not to seek work, but to enjoy an easy life – supported by state social security systems they haven’t paid into. The notion that Britain is one open border away from being flooded by immigrant scroungers looking to enjoy life on easy street is periodically reinforced by colourful tabloid stories about feckless immigrants –looking to exploit the ‘crazy benefits system’ in ‘soft touch’ Britain.2

    It would be pretty hard – arguably all but impossible – to defend such behavior. European freedom of movement began as freedom of movement for workers. Deliberately moving to take advantage of social safety nets elsewhere can hardly be defended as ‘fair use’ of EU freedom of movement rights. But there is one big “if”. It’s not actually clear that “benefit tourists” really exist, or whether they are – like so many bogeymen – the product of over-anxious imaginations.

    ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’

    So where might we find benefit tourists? Well first, it’s important to be clear that when we talk about the threat “benefit tourists” pose to the UK, we are really talking about EU migrants. That’s because nearly all migrants arriving in the UK from places outside the EU (refugees are an exception) will their passports stamped to record the fact they have ‘no recourse to public funds’.3 This means they aren’t eligible to apply for local authority housing, housing benefit, income support, child tax credits or income-based job seekers’ allowance (JSA).4 These non-EU migrants can apply for some other National Insurance based benefits, including contribution-based JSA, a pension, or statutory maternity pay – but only provided that they qualify for them, based on having paid into the NI system as workers.

    Worries about benefit tourism also shouldn’t be conflated with concerns about irregular or “illegal” immigration. The vast majority of irregular migrants are living outside the system, without the necessary documents to lodge a claim for benefits – or to pay taxes. Of course, some irregular migrants to obtain papers fraudulently, but while tabloid headlines may scream that ‘600 000 illegals are given National Insurance numbers’, by obtaining NI numbers, these irregular migrants are also making fiscal contributions they are unlikely to ever benefit from personally.5 More research has been carried out on this in the US, where in April 2013 government actuaries concluded that ‘the presence of unauthorized workers in the United States has, on average, a positive effect on the financial status of the Social Security programme’.6 It may feel counter-intuitive, but the same is likely to be true in the UK.

    Europe’s problem

    So the real concern here is with EU workers, because as EU citizens exercising their freedom of movement rights under EU law, they too are eligible to apply for “public funds” shortly after arriving in the UK provided they pass a ‘habitual residence test’. This looks at various factors, including length of stay, activities, family status and their housing situation to determine if they are sufficiently attached to the host country.7

    In fact, the UK actually goes further than this, and asks EU applicants to pass a more stringent ‘right to reside’ test in order to qualify for benefits like income support 8 – as well as requiring (since 2014) EU migrants in the UK show they have been earning £150 per week for three months before they can claim benefits. Germany has expressed similar concerns about poor and unskilled eastern Europeans, and migrants there now have just three months to find a job there before facing deportation.9

    In other words, EU migrants can’t just arrive and immediately start living off British taxpayers. But it is true that after a relatively short period of time, an EU migrant earning a low wage, or working a series of short-term, casual or precarious jobs, or who registers as self-employed, can apply for a host of benefits like those offered to British workers.   This gives rise to two questions. First, how many migrants are actually claiming these benefits? And second, is it wrong for them to do so?

    Migrants subsidize Citizens

    The first question is easy to answer: the evidence is conclusive. There is no foundation for the claim that immigration is undermining the British welfare state. In fact, it looks like the opposite is true.

    In February 2014, 4.9 million people of British origin claimed an out-of-work benefit (92.6% of the total number of claimants). This compares with 395,000 claimants with non-UK origins. 10The vast majority of this number will have been working in the UK for a significant amount of time – and, because of the way the data is collected, many of this group will also now be UK citizens.11 EU citizens represent just 2.5% of the total number of claimants – just over half of whom (1.3%) are from “Accession” states. In other words, the numbers are very small. Even when we look specifically at unemployment benefits, EU nationals amounted to only 5% of the claimants.12

    Whatever way you cut the numbers, it is hard to find any evidence of significant migrant abuse of the benefits system. Furthermore, evidence from the British Department of Work and Pensions shows that the habitual residence tests already weed out many claims made by Eastern European migrants: in 2011, two-thirds of claims by A8 migrants for income-related benefits were refused.13This, at the very least, would seem to suggest that existing rules are already able to protect our benefits systems from nefarious interlopers.

    In fact, all the data points to the fact that the vast majority of EU migrants actually pay into the UK’s social security system without taking as much out. A 2009 UCL study, comparing net tax receipts with likely expenditure, suggested that Eastern European A8 migrants14 paid in 35% more than they were likely to receive in welfare services, while natives’ taxes were equivalent to only 80% of the money they received in benefits. These A8 migrants in the UK – are also 60% less likely than natives to receive state benefits or tax credits, and 58% less likely to live in social housing.15 Although different models of income and outgoings shifted the balance slightly in local citizens’ favour, the overall conclusion was clear: ‘A8 immigrants are unambiguously net fiscal contributors, while natives are unambiguously receiving more than they contribute’.16 These findings have since been confirmed by a follow-up study released late in 2014, which calculated that EU migrants who have arrived in Britain since 2000 have made a net fiscal contribution of £20bn17 (non-EU migrants’ net contribution over the same period was £5bn).18

    Similarly, in October 2013, the EU released the snappily-titled report, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence. The report failed to find evidence of deliberate “benefit tourism”, although it did note that some social systems (such as the Spanish healthcare system) had been placed under strain by new EU arrivals (in the Spanish case, by British retirees). This report also pointed out that the UK is in fact the only EU country in which proportionately fewer EU citizens claim unemployment benefit than do nationals (2.8% of the total number of EU citizens in the UK, as opposed to 4% of UK nationals).19

     

    Entitlement 

    In macroeconomic terms, then, there is no “benefits tourism” problem. But that doesn’t answer a wider political question: who should be entitled to claim benefits in the first place?

    This isn’t just a question about immigration: it’s a matter of political philosophy. Are benefits owed to all community members who have fallen on hard times, or just to workers? The treatment of migrants’ claims to benefits actually speaks to wider debate about who deserves social support more broadly. Surveys have consistently shown a hardening of attitudes towards benefit claimants in the past two decades: the most recent British Social Attitudes survey shows that 1 in 3 Britons believe most benefit claimants do not deserve help, and that a majority (54%) believe the unemployed could find a job if they really wanted one.20

    Analysts who want to clamp down on supposed “benefit tourism” have tended to focus on the idea that benefits should only be paid to those who have made a fiscal contribution upfront – that the UK should in fact move closer to the insurance-based social model favoured in other European countries. But given the macroeconomic evidence that most migrants are contributors, such a move would be extremely unlikely to have a significant impact on EU migration. In fact, if we decide measure legitimate access to the welfare system and public services in terms of financial contribution, it’s hard to justify treating migrant workers any differently from British ones. As Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski asked in response to UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s strong rhetoric on welfare and migration in 2013, ‘if Britain gets our taxpayers, shouldn’t it also pay their benefits?’21

    But opposition to migrants claiming benefits can also be viewed as part of a shift – both socially and politically – to reduce overall spending on welfare by narrowing the numbers judged “deserving” of benefits. Migrants – especially recent arrivals – are an obvious target, because it’s not clear they are long-term members of our community, and that’s seen as one way of measuring desert. In November 2014, the UK government announced plans to bar EU migrants from being able to claim in-work benefits (like housing benefit and income support) until they have worked for four years, and to ban them from receiving out-of-work support altogether.22

    However as critics have pointed out this approach is problematic, not least because barring migrants from claiming in-work benefits for four years ignores the fact that low-wage migrant labour is an integral part of our economy, as migrants fill jobs offering less than a living wage in sectors like healthcare, which British citizens are often reluctant to take on. Benefits subsidise employers paying low wages: but without parallel plans for systematic enforcement of a living wage, it is hard to argue that such migrant workers are really “undeserving” of support.23 Yet the targeting of migrants because they are not us, rather than because they are not working, arguably helps to mask a more general rollback of state support for the lowest paid workers in our economic, regardless of status.

    Reciprocity

    There is, of course, another way to think about what’s “fair” when it comes to benefits and EU immigration. There are, after all, 2.2 million British citizens resident in other EU countries (compared to approximately 2.3 million EU citizens living in the UK).24 Much of the furore around benefit tourism in the UK has centred on the idea that Britain is a ‘soft touch’ compared to other EU welfare systems. So how many British citizens are claiming benefits elsewhere? And is it really easier to claim benefits here?

    Figures published in The Guardian in January 2015 actually show that there are more EU citizens claiming JSA in the UK than there are UK citizens claiming unemployment benefits elsewhere in the EU: 64,830 compared to (at least) 29,095.25In other words, only around 2.8% of the EU migrants in the UK are currently claiming JSA – and less than 1.4% of UK nationals who live abroad are claiming the equivalent benefit elsewhere.   However it is also true that the number of EU claimants has jumped steeply in the past three years, largely as a result of increasing number of claimants from “new” EU states (13,000 in 2011 to 38,000 in 2014).26

    Yet these figures should not be taken as “proof” that the UK benefits system is under siege. The increasing number of EU JSA claimants reflects in part a general increase in the number of EU citizens in Britain – around 320,000 more EU citizens arrived in the UK between June 2011 and 2014.27 The growth in claimants may also reflect processes of integration. Ten years after the accession of the A8 countries, many migrant workers from countries like Poland have spent many years in the UK and – if they now lose their job after several years working – they may choose to stay here and look for new employment rather return home. 

    Finally, it is also important to note that while fewer UK citizens living in other EU states may claim unemployment benefit than do EU citizens here, many thousands are still benefiting from EU reciprocity. Benefit systems do vary considerably across the EU, which makes it difficult to make overall comparisons in terms of “generosity” or ease of access. However in broad terms UK, benefits are more generous than those offered by Central and Eastern European member states, but largely comparable to those available in other Western European states – and in some countries like France, unemployment benefits are up to three times as generous as those available in the UK.28

    Conclusions

    Talk about benefit tourism is incendiary. It is also inaccurate. While there may be a small handful of rogue migrants who set out to systematically exploit the UK welfare system, only 1 out of every 25 EU migrants is claiming any kind of benefit at all. Most newly arrived non-EU migrants have no right to claim “public funds” at all.

    There are more EU nationals claiming benefits in the UK than vice versa, and the number has risen sharply in the past three years. However this trend in part reflects the structural realities of the UK labour market. New plans to further restrict the ability of EU migrants to claim in-work benefits may reduce the number of EU migrants who arrive to take up low paid work, but it fails to address the real problem: the failure of such work to pay a living wage.

    Ultimately, expressing concern about migrant “benefit tourists” deflects attention away from more fundamental recent shifts in the way that the state distributes benefits to citizens, too – as well as the way society judges those citizens.   Many analysts and campaigners have argued that since 2010, the UK welfare system has been fundamentally reframed and its founding principles – including universal benefits that guarantee the equal social rights of citizens – undermined. 29 This is a critical political issue that deserves our full attention, and it’s a debate in which “benefit tourists” are little more than red herrings.

    1. Dominiczak, P., ‘”Britain Wide Open to Abuse by Freeloading Migrants” says Foreign Secretary, The Telegraph, 20 January 2015
    2. Sheldrick, G. ‘ “Migrant benefits built my £60k mansion. It’s like FREE money,” boasts Roma gypsy’, The Express, 8 December 2014
    3. UK Visas and Immigration, Guidance: Public Funds, 17 February 2014 
    4. Although they will receive contribution-based job seekers’ allowance if made redundant, provided they have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions
    5. Hall, M., ‘Now 600,000 Illegals Are Given National Insurance Numbers in Labour Blunder’, The Express, 16 January 2008,
    6. Goss, S., Wade, A., Skirvin, J.P., Morris, M., Bye, K.M., Huston, D., ‘Effects of Unauthorized Immigration on the Actuarial Status of the Social Security Trust Funds’, Actuarial Note Number 151, April 2013
    7. BBC News, ‘Q&A: What benefits can EU migrants get?’, 3 November 2014
    8. In 2013, the European Commission announced it was referring the UK government to the European Court of Justice, believing the ‘right to reside test’ to be discriminatory.
    9. Kennedy, S., ‘Measures to Limit Migrants’ Access to Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 15 May 2014, SN/SP/6889, p.14; ‘Germany Moves to Expel Jobless Immigrants from other EU countries’, RT.com, 27 March 2014,
    10. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    11. The Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) doesn’t record benefit claimants’ nationalities – so the figures used are extrapolated from the nationality of claimants at the point they registered for a National Insurance Number (NINo). This is likely to be shortly after arrival, so even if an immigrant has lived in the UK for decades and is now a longstanding naturalised British citizen, they will be recorded as a claimant of non-UK origin in this data set because they were not a British citizen when they received a NINo.
    12. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    13. European Commission, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, 2013, p.175
    14.  The A8 countries are Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia: all joined the EU in 2004.
    15. Dustmann, C., Frattini, T., and Halls, C., ‘Assessing the Fiscal Costs and Benefits of A8 Migration to the UK’, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration Discussion Paper, July 2009
    16. Many of the media reports drawing on the research chose to highlight another figure in the report – a calculation that between 1995 and 2011, all immigrants in the UK actually cost the state £118bn. However, the authors of the report criticized the use of this figure in isolation as ‘misleading’, because no account had been taken of money paid into the system before 1995 (by, for instance, migrants who had arrived in the 1950s, worked for 40 years, but by 1995 were drawing a pension).
    17. Dusmann, C. and Frattini, T.,’The Fiscal Effects of Immigration to the UK’, The Economic Journal, Doi: 10.1111/ecoj.12181  
    18. European Commission, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, 2013
    19. British Social Attitudes Survey 31, ‘Benefits and the Cost of Living’, 2014, p.4-6
    20. ‘The Abuse of Migrants: And Still They Come’, The Economist, 19 April 2014,  
    21. Nigel Morris, ‘David Cameron “We Will Bar EU Migrants from Benefits for Four Years”’, The Independent, 28 November 2014
    22. see e.g. Anderson, B. (2010) ‘British jobs for British workers? Understanding demand for migrant labour in a recession’, Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, 10(1), Spring/summer 2010
    23. Rettman, A. ‘Two Million British People Emigrated to EU, Figures Show’, EU Observer,  10 February 2014. The figure of 2.2. million UK citizens in Europe, from 2010, includes part-time EU residents.
    24. Nadelli, A., Traynor, I. and Haddou, L., ‘Revealed: Thousands of Britons on Benefits Across EU’, The Guardian, 19 January 2015
    25. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    26. Office for National Statistics, Migration Survey Quarterly Report, February 2013, 28 February 2013 ; Office for National Statistics, Migration Survey Quarterly Report, November 20141, 27 November 2014
    27. Nadelli, A., Traynor, I. and Haddou, L., ‘Revealed: Thousands of Britons on Benefits Across EU’, The Guardian, 19 January 2015
    28. see e.g. Wintour, P. ‘The Day Britain Changes: Welfare Reforms and Coalition Cuts Take Effect’The Guardian, 31 March 2013 

    Are migrants more like to turn to crime than citizens? Do higher levels of immigration lead to higher crime rates? These are question that surface unanswered every time an immigrants are identified as the perpetrators of rape, murder or terrorism.

    Lock your doors

    Many anti-immigrant campaigners are not slow to voice accusations that migrants cause more crime. In May 2014, Nigel Farage insisted he would be “concerned” to find Romanians moving in next door, insisting it was not a question of segregation but safety, because of “criminality from these gangs” of Romanian men.30

    It’s not just in the UK that such fears are voiced. In Israel, waves of retaliatory violence followed claims in 2012 that African immigrants were responsible for 40% of crime in Tel Aviv. While Interior Minster Eli Yashi insisted that ‘most of the African[s] are criminals’, official police data suggested that such claims were without foundation – figures suggested foreigners committed 2.24 crimes per 100 people in 2011, less than half the 4.99 figure for Israeli citizens.31

    No Crime Wave

    The first fact we can establish is that – while countries like the UK and the US are experiencing historically high levels of migration – this migration wave has not been accompanied by a parallel crime wave. In the UK, crime rates have fallen continuously since 2002, a drop that coincided with Eastern European arrivals.32 In the US, there has been a 45% drop in violent crime, and a 42% drop in property crime since 1990. During the same period, the number of unauthorised migrants climbed from 3.5 to 11 million, and the percentage of the population who were foreign born rose from 8 to 13%.33

    This, of course, is no proof in itself that migrants aren’t committing more crimes than citizens. Correlation – an association between two events – doesn’t automatically add up to causation. Perhaps citizens have become far more law-abiding, and there would be no crime at all if there were no migrants. But it is an indication that higher levels of migration have not resulted in crime rates spiralling out of control. In fact, our streets have never been safer. There’s a problem though: talking about “migrants” committing “crimes” is vague. To understand the issue, we need to ask which migrants might be more likely to commit which crimes.

    Criminalisation

    Of course, for some observers some migrants are already criminals by the time they’ve arrived here, because they did so without authorization: they are “illegals”. But even if you hold this viewpoint, it’s important to recognise that while irregular migrants may have broken the law by crossing a border or overstaying their visas, this act does not make them habitual criminals. The truth is more complex. Many irregular migrants have to use fraudulent documents in order to obtain employment and start paying taxes and social security contributions. Trying to build a law-abiding life, in other words, relies on an initial deception. Similarly, it’s important to recognise that talking about “bogus” or “illegal” asylum seekers is a contradiction in terms. No asylum-seeker is illegal. Under international law, we all have a right to ask for sanctuary from persecution. Of course, the claim may be denied. But this does not make it a criminal act.

    However, the language of criminalisation – and the policies that accompany it – may have important consequences when it comes to understanding the relationship between migration and crime. Groups of migrants who are pushed to the margins of the legal economy may find themselves forced into the black market instead. This includes asylum seekers, who have a legal right to be present while they are in the country, but who are prohibited from working and expected to survive on £5.23 a day.34 The very process of criminalising some migrants as they arrive, in other words, may actually result in more crime.

    Which migrants?

    When it comes to migration and crime, socio-economic status matters. Wealthier migrants are extremely unlikely to commit crime, particularly crimes like robbery and petty theft. That’s because these crimes are overwhelmingly associated with poverty, deprivation and unemployment. Wealthy migrants don’t rob houses: they join neighbourhood watch associations. Highly-skilled migrant workers tend to earn more than locals, and in the UK all highly-skilled migrants must earn over £20,500 a year in order to qualify for a visa at all.35

    In fact, for all migrants the stakes are higher than for citizens, not least because immigrants are admitted on conditional visas. Engaging in criminal activity means risking not just conviction and detention, but deportation. It’s therefore not surprising that studies have concluded that ‘migrant flows into the UK that we have observed over the last decade have most likely been associated with small declines in the rate of property crime’.36 In the US, similar studies have shown that since the 1990s immigrants coming to the US are also less likely to be involved in criminal activity than the general population:  in fact, first generation immigrants have been shown to be 45% less likely to commit a violent act than a third-generation American 37. Perhaps what is less expected – at least in terms of public perception – is the finding that this association holds for Eastern European migrants too. A 2013 research study from the University of Oxford calculated that for every 1% rise in the number of A8 migrants, there was a 0.4% drop in crime rates.38

    But of course, when we worry about migrant crime, our concern isn’t with middle-class Indian software engineers or French bankers. We’re really talking about other migrants: those who are viewed – whether because of ethnicity, religion or poverty – as particularly likely to commit criminal acts.

    Romanians

    What, for instance, are we to make of newspaper headlines declaring that one-third of all Romanian nationals present in the UK have been arrested, and that Romanian gangs are responsible for 92% of all ATM crimes? 39 Well, organised crime is increasingly a global business, and police intelligence indicates that Romanian gangs may be disproportionately likely to be engaged in directing credit-card skimming and human trafficking, although the actual number of migrants involved is tiny – and in fact, only 5.8% of those arrested for fraud by the Metropolitan Police in the UK in 2012 were Romanian.40

    There is also some evidence that some Romanians may be involved in organised begging, but while such harassment is often very visible, arrest figures suggest that this is still likely to be a highly localised issue. Of the 244 Romanians arrested for begging in London in 2012, 85% were arrested in just one borough, Westminster 41.

    These same figures show that Romanians, when compared with other migrant groups of similar size, are disproportionately likely to be arrested, with 27,725 arrests being made over five years from 2008 to 2012 42. Arrests, of course, are not convictions or even charges, and can reflect social and political biases against particular minority groups. However these numbers do suggest that while the vast majority of Romanians in the UK are entirely law-abiding, a small percentage may well add disproportionately to petty crime rates in certain locations.

    Asylum Seekers

    What about asylum seekers – another group who are often suspected of criminal activity? Here, there is some evidence that an influx of asylum-seekers into a neighbourhood can very slightly increase levels of property crime. Findings from the UK show that for every 1% rise in the number of asylum seekers in an area, levels of property crime rise by 1.1%.43 However, when it comes to understanding why this connection exists, we need to be very careful not to draw unsubstantiated conclusions. It may not be immigration as much as the immigration system that is at fault. It is well established that it is the very poor in any community who are most likely to commit crimes. Current legal frameworks trap asylum-seekers at the margins of destitution: they are prohibited from seeking work.

    In fact, access to the labour market may be the primary determinant of migrant crime rates. One study from Italy found that once Romanian and Bulgarian offenders had access to the labour market in Italy after 2007, the levels of recidivism among this group fell from 5.8% to 2.3% — because these migrants could now find legal work. 44 In Israel, Tel Aviv’s police chief has made a similar far more subtle argument than those advanced by politicians or vigilantes advocating incarceration. Although agreeing that asylum seekers were contributing to a rise in crime, he has suggested that the response should be not to criminalise these asylum-seekers, but to permit them to work in order to reduce petty pilfering.45

    Islamists

    But enough about property crime. What about the stuff of nightmares – murder, rape and terror? Research has repeatedly failed to show any direct correlation between immigration and violent crime rates.46 But when it comes to terrorist attacks, the view is more complicated. Islamist terrorists in the West are disproportionately likely to have links with immigrant communities. But there are several caveats to this. First, violent extremists remain a tiny number, terrorist attacks are rare, and not all terrorists are Muslim (see, for instance, Andreas Breivik). Second, evidence suggests that – just as the Charlie Hebdo gunmen were ‘born, raised and radicalised in Paris’ – it’s not immigrants but immigrant’s children who are most likely to be co-opted by radicals.47 This suggests the real questions are about integration and its failures: and that the answers may lie in understanding the appeal of Islamic extremism to marginalised and impoverished youth, including those from non-Muslim backgrounds.

    Social disorganisation?

    But what if, even if immigrants aren’t more likely to be criminal, immigration still causes more crime? Some have argued that if migrants displace British workers, some of them may be pushed into poverty and crime. Other commentators have argued that while migrants may not be committing more crime, their presence still causes more crime because it contributes to “social disorganisation”. This is the idea that, as diversity increases in an area, there are fewer long-term residents in a neighbourhood. The result is that communities are destabilised, so bonds between neighbours weaken – and crime increases.48

    It sounds plausible: Paul Collier relied on these ideas extensively in his own warning against mass immigration, Exodus. Yet there is little evidence to support these assertions.49  In fact, the available research on immigration actually suggests that the opposite is true. Research from the UK shows that immigrant “enclaves” – defined as neighbourhoods where at least 30% of the neighbourhood are immigrants – have lower levels of crime and victimisation than areas with similar socio-economic demographics, but fewer migrant families. This is true not just for the migrants – but for their local neighbours too.50 Despite what Farage might claim, diverse neighbourhoods may actually be safer neighbourhoods.

    Planned Policing

    However, it is important to acknowledge that — as with other public services –arrival of new immigrants can place new additional strains on limited police resources. A particular issue is the cost of translation: as the Association of Chief Police Officers explained in Parliament in 2008, ‘in terms of normal criminality [migrants] mirror the resident population… but it it takes twice or three times as long to deal with it’.Cultural differences also contribute. Less stringent norms around drink-driving, for instance, meant that by 2008 40% of those detained for driving under the influence were migrants from Eastern Europe. Other newly arrived groups – for instance Iraqis – are more likely to carry offensive weapons for their own protection. This all adds to costs. The Kent Police estimate that between 2004 and 2008, they spent an additional £34 million because of issues relating to immigration: at the same time, the failure to properly plan for Eastern European immigration in 2004 resulted in funding shortfalls for local councils whose populations grew unexpectedly.51

    Exporting criminality

    Finally, it’s important to acknowledge that exporting crime waves can work both ways. The practice of deporting foreign criminals from US jails, for example, has been identified by Central American policy-makers as one factor contributing to the growth of gang-related violence in Latin America. States like El Salvador and Guatemala struggle to reintegrate migrants with criminal records, or to keep tracks on the deported members of gangs like the Mara Salvatrucha and the 18th Street Gang – both groups, it’s worth noting, who are heavily involved in facilitating human smuggling and trafficking back across the US border.52  

    Conclusions

    The immigration crime wave is largely imaginary. In fact, the evidence suggests that in overall terms, diverse migrant communities actually lead to lower crime rates. Highly paid migrants are less likely to commit crimes than locals; and all migrants have an additional incentive to stay on the right side of the law because they may risk deportation if arrested.

    The real connection is between crime and poverty. This means arrival of some poor migrant groups in a neighbourhood – such as asylum seekers – may lead to a marginal increase in crime. But it is still poverty – rather than any inherent “criminality” – that is the main driver, and it is especially important to recognise that in the case of asylum seekers, such poverty is the result of deliberate government policy 53.

    It’s also true that newly arrived migrants can put a strain on police resources, especially if they need help with translators or are more likely to be the perpetrators (or the victims) of new types of crime. But this is a question of resource allocation, which needs to be considered in terms of migrants’ broader fiscal contributions.

    In the final analysis, it’s easy to declare that no migrant should commit any crime, and that the best way of achieving this is to only admit the highly-skilled and the highly-paid. But there’s no evidence low-paid migrants are any more likely to commit crimes, and we need them too. The real links we need to pay attention to are the complex long-term links between social integration, poverty and crime. And that’s not just a question about immigrants: it’s a discussion about citizens too.

    1. Dominiczak, P., ‘”Britain Wide Open to Abuse by Freeloading Migrants” says Foreign Secretary, The Telegraph, 20 January 2015
    2. Sheldrick, G. ‘ “Migrant benefits built my £60k mansion. It’s like FREE money,” boasts Roma gypsy’, The Express, 8 December 2014
    3. UK Visas and Immigration, Guidance: Public Funds, 17 February 2014 
    4. Although they will receive contribution-based job seekers’ allowance if made redundant, provided they have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions
    5. Hall, M., ‘Now 600,000 Illegals Are Given National Insurance Numbers in Labour Blunder’, The Express, 16 January 2008,
    6. Goss, S., Wade, A., Skirvin, J.P., Morris, M., Bye, K.M., Huston, D., ‘Effects of Unauthorized Immigration on the Actuarial Status of the Social Security Trust Funds’, Actuarial Note Number 151, April 2013
    7. BBC News, ‘Q&A: What benefits can EU migrants get?’, 3 November 2014
    8. In 2013, the European Commission announced it was referring the UK government to the European Court of Justice, believing the ‘right to reside test’ to be discriminatory.
    9. Kennedy, S., ‘Measures to Limit Migrants’ Access to Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 15 May 2014, SN/SP/6889, p.14; ‘Germany Moves to Expel Jobless Immigrants from other EU countries’, RT.com, 27 March 2014,
    10. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    11. The Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) doesn’t record benefit claimants’ nationalities – so the figures used are extrapolated from the nationality of claimants at the point they registered for a National Insurance Number (NINo). This is likely to be shortly after arrival, so even if an immigrant has lived in the UK for decades and is now a longstanding naturalised British citizen, they will be recorded as a claimant of non-UK origin in this data set because they were not a British citizen when they received a NINo.
    12. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    13. European Commission, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, 2013, p.175
    14.  The A8 countries are Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia: all joined the EU in 2004.
    15. Dustmann, C., Frattini, T., and Halls, C., ‘Assessing the Fiscal Costs and Benefits of A8 Migration to the UK’, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration Discussion Paper, July 2009
    16. Many of the media reports drawing on the research chose to highlight another figure in the report – a calculation that between 1995 and 2011, all immigrants in the UK actually cost the state £118bn. However, the authors of the report criticized the use of this figure in isolation as ‘misleading’, because no account had been taken of money paid into the system before 1995 (by, for instance, migrants who had arrived in the 1950s, worked for 40 years, but by 1995 were drawing a pension).
    17. Dusmann, C. and Frattini, T.,’The Fiscal Effects of Immigration to the UK’, The Economic Journal, Doi: 10.1111/ecoj.12181  
    18. European Commission, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, 2013
    19. British Social Attitudes Survey 31, ‘Benefits and the Cost of Living’, 2014, p.4-6
    20. ‘The Abuse of Migrants: And Still They Come’, The Economist, 19 April 2014,  
    21. Nigel Morris, ‘David Cameron “We Will Bar EU Migrants from Benefits for Four Years”’, The Independent, 28 November 2014
    22. see e.g. Anderson, B. (2010) ‘British jobs for British workers? Understanding demand for migrant labour in a recession’, Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, 10(1), Spring/summer 2010
    23. Rettman, A. ‘Two Million British People Emigrated to EU, Figures Show’, EU Observer,  10 February 2014. The figure of 2.2. million UK citizens in Europe, from 2010, includes part-time EU residents.
    24. Nadelli, A., Traynor, I. and Haddou, L., ‘Revealed: Thousands of Britons on Benefits Across EU’, The Guardian, 19 January 2015
    25. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    26. Office for National Statistics, Migration Survey Quarterly Report, February 2013, 28 February 2013 ; Office for National Statistics, Migration Survey Quarterly Report, November 20141, 27 November 2014
    27. Nadelli, A., Traynor, I. and Haddou, L., ‘Revealed: Thousands of Britons on Benefits Across EU’, The Guardian, 19 January 2015
    28. see e.g. Wintour, P. ‘The Day Britain Changes: Welfare Reforms and Coalition Cuts Take Effect’The Guardian, 31 March 2013 
    29. Dominiczak, P., ‘”Britain Wide Open to Abuse by Freeloading Migrants” says Foreign Secretary, The Telegraph, 20 January 2015
    30. Sheldrick, G. ‘ “Migrant benefits built my £60k mansion. It’s like FREE money,” boasts Roma gypsy’, The Express, 8 December 2014
    31. UK Visas and Immigration, Guidance: Public Funds, 17 February 2014 
    32. Although they will receive contribution-based job seekers’ allowance if made redundant, provided they have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions
    33. Hall, M., ‘Now 600,000 Illegals Are Given National Insurance Numbers in Labour Blunder’, The Express, 16 January 2008,
    34. Goss, S., Wade, A., Skirvin, J.P., Morris, M., Bye, K.M., Huston, D., ‘Effects of Unauthorized Immigration on the Actuarial Status of the Social Security Trust Funds’, Actuarial Note Number 151, April 2013
    35. BBC News, ‘Q&A: What benefits can EU migrants get?’, 3 November 2014
    36. In 2013, the European Commission announced it was referring the UK government to the European Court of Justice, believing the ‘right to reside test’ to be discriminatory.
    37. Kennedy, S., ‘Measures to Limit Migrants’ Access to Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 15 May 2014, SN/SP/6889, p.14; ‘Germany Moves to Expel Jobless Immigrants from other EU countries’, RT.com, 27 March 2014,
    38. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    39. The Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) doesn’t record benefit claimants’ nationalities – so the figures used are extrapolated from the nationality of claimants at the point they registered for a National Insurance Number (NINo). This is likely to be shortly after arrival, so even if an immigrant has lived in the UK for decades and is now a longstanding naturalised British citizen, they will be recorded as a claimant of non-UK origin in this data set because they were not a British citizen when they received a NINo.
    40. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    41. European Commission, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, 2013, p.175
    42.  The A8 countries are Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia: all joined the EU in 2004.
    43. Dustmann, C., Frattini, T., and Halls, C., ‘Assessing the Fiscal Costs and Benefits of A8 Migration to the UK’, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration Discussion Paper, July 2009
    44. Many of the media reports drawing on the research chose to highlight another figure in the report – a calculation that between 1995 and 2011, all immigrants in the UK actually cost the state £118bn. However, the authors of the report criticized the use of this figure in isolation as ‘misleading’, because no account had been taken of money paid into the system before 1995 (by, for instance, migrants who had arrived in the 1950s, worked for 40 years, but by 1995 were drawing a pension).
    45. Dusmann, C. and Frattini, T.,’The Fiscal Effects of Immigration to the UK’, The Economic Journal, Doi: 10.1111/ecoj.12181  
    46. European Commission, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, 2013
    47. British Social Attitudes Survey 31, ‘Benefits and the Cost of Living’, 2014, p.4-6
    48. ‘The Abuse of Migrants: And Still They Come’, The Economist, 19 April 2014,  
    49. Nigel Morris, ‘David Cameron “We Will Bar EU Migrants from Benefits for Four Years”’, The Independent, 28 November 2014
    50. see e.g. Anderson, B. (2010) ‘British jobs for British workers? Understanding demand for migrant labour in a recession’, Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, 10(1), Spring/summer 2010
    51. Rettman, A. ‘Two Million British People Emigrated to EU, Figures Show’, EU Observer,  10 February 2014. The figure of 2.2. million UK citizens in Europe, from 2010, includes part-time EU residents.
    52. Nadelli, A., Traynor, I. and Haddou, L., ‘Revealed: Thousands of Britons on Benefits Across EU’, The Guardian, 19 January 2015
    53. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    54. Office for National Statistics, Migration Survey Quarterly Report, February 2013, 28 February 2013 ; Office for National Statistics, Migration Survey Quarterly Report, November 20141, 27 November 2014
    55. Nadelli, A., Traynor, I. and Haddou, L., ‘Revealed: Thousands of Britons on Benefits Across EU’, The Guardian, 19 January 2015
    56. see e.g. Wintour, P. ‘The Day Britain Changes: Welfare Reforms and Coalition Cuts Take Effect’The Guardian, 31 March 2013 
    57. BBC News, ‘Nigel Farage defends Romanian comments amid racism claims’, 19 May 2014
    58. Jeffay. N, ‘Israeli Anger Over ‘African’ Crime Wave: After Rapes, Violent Backlash Targets Black Immigrants’, The Jewish Daily Forward, 27 May 2012
    59. Office of National Statistics, Crime in England and Wales, Year Ending March 2014, 17 July 2014
    60. Immigration Policy Centre, ‘From Anecdotes to Evidence: Setting the Record Straight on Immigrants and Crime’, 25 July 2013
    61. Hessing, T., ‘It’s OK to live in Poverty. It’s OK to be Hungry’, Open Democracy, 31 October 2014
    62. UK Government, Tier 2 (General) Visa
    63. Bell, B. and Machin, S., ‘The Impact of Migration on Crime and Victimisation: A report for the Migration Advisory Committee’, LSE Consulting, December 2011
    64. Sampson, R.J., ‘Rethinking Crime and Immigration’, American Sociological Association, Winter 2008
    65. Bell, B., ‘Immigrant and Crime: Evidence for the UK and Other Countries’, The Migration Observatory Briefing, 13 November 2013
    66. Full Fact, Over Here and Under Arrest: are Romanians responsible for 90% of ATM crime?, 28 October 2013
    67. Metropolitan Police, Freedom of Information Disclosure, Arrests of Romanian Nationals in 2012, 4 February 2013
    68. Metropolitan Police, Freedom of Information Disclosure, Arrests of Romanian Nationals in 2012, 4 February 2013
    69. Metropolitan Police, Freedom of Information Disclosure, Arrests of Foreign Nationals by Nationality and Specific Arrest Areas, 2008-2012, 8 January 2012
    70. Bell, B., ‘Immigrant and Crime: Evidence for the UK and Other Countries’, The Migration Observatory Briefing, 13 November 2013
    71. Mastrobuoni, G. and Pinotti, P., ‘Legal Status and the Criminal Activity of Immigrants’, Dondena Working Paper No.52, September 2012
    72. Sherwood, H., ‘Levinsky Park Migrants live in fear after Tel Aviv race riots’, The Guardian, 29 May 2012
    73. Bell, B., ‘Immigrant and Crime: Evidence for the UK and Other Countries’, The Migration Observatory Briefing, 13 November 2013
    74. Crisafis, A., ‘Charlie Hebdo Attackers: born raised and radicalised in Paris, The Guardian, 12 January 2014
    75. see e.g. Putnam, R., ‘Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital’, Journal of Democracy, 6:1, January 1995, 65-78 – although Putnam’s work was concerned with race, not national origin or migrant status
    76. see e.g. Clemens, M. and Sandefur, J., ‘Let the People Go: the Problem with Strict Migration Limits’, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2014
    77. Bell, B. and Machin, S., ‘Immigrant Enclaves and Crime’, CEP Discussion Paper No. 1104, December 2011
    78. Home Affairs Select Committee, Seventh Report, Parliamentary Session 2007-2008, para. 70-93
    79. Seelke, C.R., ‘Gangs in Central America’, Congressionsal Research Service Report for Congress, 20 February 2014
    80. Allsopp, J., Sigona, N. and Phillmore, J., ‘Poverty among Refugee and Asylum Seekers in the UK: An Evidence and Policy Review’, IRIS Working Paper No 1/2014

    It’s one of the key questions at the heart of the immigration debate: do migrants take our jobs? Does every Spanish waiter, Polish plumber or Mexican gardener add up to one more unemployed British or American citizen? Read More

    1. Dominiczak, P., ‘”Britain Wide Open to Abuse by Freeloading Migrants” says Foreign Secretary, The Telegraph, 20 January 2015
    2. Sheldrick, G. ‘ “Migrant benefits built my £60k mansion. It’s like FREE money,” boasts Roma gypsy’, The Express, 8 December 2014
    3. UK Visas and Immigration, Guidance: Public Funds, 17 February 2014 
    4. Although they will receive contribution-based job seekers’ allowance if made redundant, provided they have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions
    5. Hall, M., ‘Now 600,000 Illegals Are Given National Insurance Numbers in Labour Blunder’, The Express, 16 January 2008,
    6. Goss, S., Wade, A., Skirvin, J.P., Morris, M., Bye, K.M., Huston, D., ‘Effects of Unauthorized Immigration on the Actuarial Status of the Social Security Trust Funds’, Actuarial Note Number 151, April 2013
    7. BBC News, ‘Q&A: What benefits can EU migrants get?’, 3 November 2014
    8. In 2013, the European Commission announced it was referring the UK government to the European Court of Justice, believing the ‘right to reside test’ to be discriminatory.
    9. Kennedy, S., ‘Measures to Limit Migrants’ Access to Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 15 May 2014, SN/SP/6889, p.14; ‘Germany Moves to Expel Jobless Immigrants from other EU countries’, RT.com, 27 March 2014,
    10. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    11. The Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) doesn’t record benefit claimants’ nationalities – so the figures used are extrapolated from the nationality of claimants at the point they registered for a National Insurance Number (NINo). This is likely to be shortly after arrival, so even if an immigrant has lived in the UK for decades and is now a longstanding naturalised British citizen, they will be recorded as a claimant of non-UK origin in this data set because they were not a British citizen when they received a NINo.
    12. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    13. European Commission, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, 2013, p.175
    14.  The A8 countries are Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia: all joined the EU in 2004.
    15. Dustmann, C., Frattini, T., and Halls, C., ‘Assessing the Fiscal Costs and Benefits of A8 Migration to the UK’, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration Discussion Paper, July 2009
    16. Many of the media reports drawing on the research chose to highlight another figure in the report – a calculation that between 1995 and 2011, all immigrants in the UK actually cost the state £118bn. However, the authors of the report criticized the use of this figure in isolation as ‘misleading’, because no account had been taken of money paid into the system before 1995 (by, for instance, migrants who had arrived in the 1950s, worked for 40 years, but by 1995 were drawing a pension).
    17. Dusmann, C. and Frattini, T.,’The Fiscal Effects of Immigration to the UK’, The Economic Journal, Doi: 10.1111/ecoj.12181  
    18. European Commission, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, 2013
    19. British Social Attitudes Survey 31, ‘Benefits and the Cost of Living’, 2014, p.4-6
    20. ‘The Abuse of Migrants: And Still They Come’, The Economist, 19 April 2014,  
    21. Nigel Morris, ‘David Cameron “We Will Bar EU Migrants from Benefits for Four Years”’, The Independent, 28 November 2014
    22. see e.g. Anderson, B. (2010) ‘British jobs for British workers? Understanding demand for migrant labour in a recession’, Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, 10(1), Spring/summer 2010
    23. Rettman, A. ‘Two Million British People Emigrated to EU, Figures Show’, EU Observer,  10 February 2014. The figure of 2.2. million UK citizens in Europe, from 2010, includes part-time EU residents.
    24. Nadelli, A., Traynor, I. and Haddou, L., ‘Revealed: Thousands of Britons on Benefits Across EU’, The Guardian, 19 January 2015
    25. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    26. Office for National Statistics, Migration Survey Quarterly Report, February 2013, 28 February 2013 ; Office for National Statistics, Migration Survey Quarterly Report, November 20141, 27 November 2014
    27. Nadelli, A., Traynor, I. and Haddou, L., ‘Revealed: Thousands of Britons on Benefits Across EU’, The Guardian, 19 January 2015
    28. see e.g. Wintour, P. ‘The Day Britain Changes: Welfare Reforms and Coalition Cuts Take Effect’The Guardian, 31 March 2013 
    29. Dominiczak, P., ‘”Britain Wide Open to Abuse by Freeloading Migrants” says Foreign Secretary, The Telegraph, 20 January 2015
    30. Sheldrick, G. ‘ “Migrant benefits built my £60k mansion. It’s like FREE money,” boasts Roma gypsy’, The Express, 8 December 2014
    31. UK Visas and Immigration, Guidance: Public Funds, 17 February 2014 
    32. Although they will receive contribution-based job seekers’ allowance if made redundant, provided they have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions
    33. Hall, M., ‘Now 600,000 Illegals Are Given National Insurance Numbers in Labour Blunder’, The Express, 16 January 2008,
    34. Goss, S., Wade, A., Skirvin, J.P., Morris, M., Bye, K.M., Huston, D., ‘Effects of Unauthorized Immigration on the Actuarial Status of the Social Security Trust Funds’, Actuarial Note Number 151, April 2013
    35. BBC News, ‘Q&A: What benefits can EU migrants get?’, 3 November 2014
    36. In 2013, the European Commission announced it was referring the UK government to the European Court of Justice, believing the ‘right to reside test’ to be discriminatory.
    37. Kennedy, S., ‘Measures to Limit Migrants’ Access to Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 15 May 2014, SN/SP/6889, p.14; ‘Germany Moves to Expel Jobless Immigrants from other EU countries’, RT.com, 27 March 2014,
    38. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    39. The Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) doesn’t record benefit claimants’ nationalities – so the figures used are extrapolated from the nationality of claimants at the point they registered for a National Insurance Number (NINo). This is likely to be shortly after arrival, so even if an immigrant has lived in the UK for decades and is now a longstanding naturalised British citizen, they will be recorded as a claimant of non-UK origin in this data set because they were not a British citizen when they received a NINo.
    40. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    41. European Commission, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, 2013, p.175
    42.  The A8 countries are Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia: all joined the EU in 2004.
    43. Dustmann, C., Frattini, T., and Halls, C., ‘Assessing the Fiscal Costs and Benefits of A8 Migration to the UK’, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration Discussion Paper, July 2009
    44. Many of the media reports drawing on the research chose to highlight another figure in the report – a calculation that between 1995 and 2011, all immigrants in the UK actually cost the state £118bn. However, the authors of the report criticized the use of this figure in isolation as ‘misleading’, because no account had been taken of money paid into the system before 1995 (by, for instance, migrants who had arrived in the 1950s, worked for 40 years, but by 1995 were drawing a pension).
    45. Dusmann, C. and Frattini, T.,’The Fiscal Effects of Immigration to the UK’, The Economic Journal, Doi: 10.1111/ecoj.12181  
    46. European Commission, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, 2013
    47. British Social Attitudes Survey 31, ‘Benefits and the Cost of Living’, 2014, p.4-6
    48. ‘The Abuse of Migrants: And Still They Come’, The Economist, 19 April 2014,  
    49. Nigel Morris, ‘David Cameron “We Will Bar EU Migrants from Benefits for Four Years”’, The Independent, 28 November 2014
    50. see e.g. Anderson, B. (2010) ‘British jobs for British workers? Understanding demand for migrant labour in a recession’, Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, 10(1), Spring/summer 2010
    51. Rettman, A. ‘Two Million British People Emigrated to EU, Figures Show’, EU Observer,  10 February 2014. The figure of 2.2. million UK citizens in Europe, from 2010, includes part-time EU residents.
    52. Nadelli, A., Traynor, I. and Haddou, L., ‘Revealed: Thousands of Britons on Benefits Across EU’, The Guardian, 19 January 2015
    53. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    54. Office for National Statistics, Migration Survey Quarterly Report, February 2013, 28 February 2013 ; Office for National Statistics, Migration Survey Quarterly Report, November 20141, 27 November 2014
    55. Nadelli, A., Traynor, I. and Haddou, L., ‘Revealed: Thousands of Britons on Benefits Across EU’, The Guardian, 19 January 2015
    56. see e.g. Wintour, P. ‘The Day Britain Changes: Welfare Reforms and Coalition Cuts Take Effect’The Guardian, 31 March 2013 
    57. BBC News, ‘Nigel Farage defends Romanian comments amid racism claims’, 19 May 2014
    58. Jeffay. N, ‘Israeli Anger Over ‘African’ Crime Wave: After Rapes, Violent Backlash Targets Black Immigrants’, The Jewish Daily Forward, 27 May 2012
    59. Office of National Statistics, Crime in England and Wales, Year Ending March 2014, 17 July 2014
    60. Immigration Policy Centre, ‘From Anecdotes to Evidence: Setting the Record Straight on Immigrants and Crime’, 25 July 2013
    61. Hessing, T., ‘It’s OK to live in Poverty. It’s OK to be Hungry’, Open Democracy, 31 October 2014
    62. UK Government, Tier 2 (General) Visa
    63. Bell, B. and Machin, S., ‘The Impact of Migration on Crime and Victimisation: A report for the Migration Advisory Committee’, LSE Consulting, December 2011
    64. Sampson, R.J., ‘Rethinking Crime and Immigration’, American Sociological Association, Winter 2008
    65. Bell, B., ‘Immigrant and Crime: Evidence for the UK and Other Countries’, The Migration Observatory Briefing, 13 November 2013
    66. Full Fact, Over Here and Under Arrest: are Romanians responsible for 90% of ATM crime?, 28 October 2013
    67. Metropolitan Police, Freedom of Information Disclosure, Arrests of Romanian Nationals in 2012, 4 February 2013
    68. Metropolitan Police, Freedom of Information Disclosure, Arrests of Romanian Nationals in 2012, 4 February 2013
    69. Metropolitan Police, Freedom of Information Disclosure, Arrests of Foreign Nationals by Nationality and Specific Arrest Areas, 2008-2012, 8 January 2012
    70. Bell, B., ‘Immigrant and Crime: Evidence for the UK and Other Countries’, The Migration Observatory Briefing, 13 November 2013
    71. Mastrobuoni, G. and Pinotti, P., ‘Legal Status and the Criminal Activity of Immigrants’, Dondena Working Paper No.52, September 2012
    72. Sherwood, H., ‘Levinsky Park Migrants live in fear after Tel Aviv race riots’, The Guardian, 29 May 2012
    73. Bell, B., ‘Immigrant and Crime: Evidence for the UK and Other Countries’, The Migration Observatory Briefing, 13 November 2013
    74. Crisafis, A., ‘Charlie Hebdo Attackers: born raised and radicalised in Paris, The Guardian, 12 January 2014
    75. see e.g. Putnam, R., ‘Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital’, Journal of Democracy, 6:1, January 1995, 65-78 – although Putnam’s work was concerned with race, not national origin or migrant status
    76. see e.g. Clemens, M. and Sandefur, J., ‘Let the People Go: the Problem with Strict Migration Limits’, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2014
    77. Bell, B. and Machin, S., ‘Immigrant Enclaves and Crime’, CEP Discussion Paper No. 1104, December 2011
    78. Home Affairs Select Committee, Seventh Report, Parliamentary Session 2007-2008, para. 70-93
    79. Seelke, C.R., ‘Gangs in Central America’, Congressionsal Research Service Report for Congress, 20 February 2014
    80. Allsopp, J., Sigona, N. and Phillmore, J., ‘Poverty among Refugee and Asylum Seekers in the UK: An Evidence and Policy Review’, IRIS Working Paper No 1/2014
    81. Dominiczak, P., ‘”Britain Wide Open to Abuse by Freeloading Migrants” says Foreign Secretary, The Telegraph, 20 January 2015
    82. Sheldrick, G. ‘ “Migrant benefits built my £60k mansion. It’s like FREE money,” boasts Roma gypsy’, The Express, 8 December 2014
    83. UK Visas and Immigration, Guidance: Public Funds, 17 February 2014 
    84. Although they will receive contribution-based job seekers’ allowance if made redundant, provided they have paid sufficient National Insurance contributions
    85. Hall, M., ‘Now 600,000 Illegals Are Given National Insurance Numbers in Labour Blunder’, The Express, 16 January 2008,
    86. Goss, S., Wade, A., Skirvin, J.P., Morris, M., Bye, K.M., Huston, D., ‘Effects of Unauthorized Immigration on the Actuarial Status of the Social Security Trust Funds’, Actuarial Note Number 151, April 2013
    87. BBC News, ‘Q&A: What benefits can EU migrants get?’, 3 November 2014
    88. In 2013, the European Commission announced it was referring the UK government to the European Court of Justice, believing the ‘right to reside test’ to be discriminatory.
    89. Kennedy, S., ‘Measures to Limit Migrants’ Access to Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 15 May 2014, SN/SP/6889, p.14; ‘Germany Moves to Expel Jobless Immigrants from other EU countries’, RT.com, 27 March 2014,
    90. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    91. The Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) doesn’t record benefit claimants’ nationalities – so the figures used are extrapolated from the nationality of claimants at the point they registered for a National Insurance Number (NINo). This is likely to be shortly after arrival, so even if an immigrant has lived in the UK for decades and is now a longstanding naturalised British citizen, they will be recorded as a claimant of non-UK origin in this data set because they were not a British citizen when they received a NINo.
    92. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    93. European Commission, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, 2013, p.175
    94.  The A8 countries are Czech Republic, Hungary, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia: all joined the EU in 2004.
    95. Dustmann, C., Frattini, T., and Halls, C., ‘Assessing the Fiscal Costs and Benefits of A8 Migration to the UK’, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration Discussion Paper, July 2009
    96. Many of the media reports drawing on the research chose to highlight another figure in the report – a calculation that between 1995 and 2011, all immigrants in the UK actually cost the state £118bn. However, the authors of the report criticized the use of this figure in isolation as ‘misleading’, because no account had been taken of money paid into the system before 1995 (by, for instance, migrants who had arrived in the 1950s, worked for 40 years, but by 1995 were drawing a pension).
    97. Dusmann, C. and Frattini, T.,’The Fiscal Effects of Immigration to the UK’, The Economic Journal, Doi: 10.1111/ecoj.12181  
    98. European Commission, A Fact-finding Analysis on the Member States’ Social Security Systems of the entitlements of non-active intra-EU migrants to special non-contributory cash benefits and healthcare granted on the basis of residence, 2013
    99. British Social Attitudes Survey 31, ‘Benefits and the Cost of Living’, 2014, p.4-6
    100. ‘The Abuse of Migrants: And Still They Come’, The Economist, 19 April 2014,  
    101. Nigel Morris, ‘David Cameron “We Will Bar EU Migrants from Benefits for Four Years”’, The Independent, 28 November 2014
    102. see e.g. Anderson, B. (2010) ‘British jobs for British workers? Understanding demand for migrant labour in a recession’, Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, 10(1), Spring/summer 2010
    103. Rettman, A. ‘Two Million British People Emigrated to EU, Figures Show’, EU Observer,  10 February 2014. The figure of 2.2. million UK citizens in Europe, from 2010, includes part-time EU residents.
    104. Nadelli, A., Traynor, I. and Haddou, L., ‘Revealed: Thousands of Britons on Benefits Across EU’, The Guardian, 19 January 2015
    105. McKinnes, R., ‘Statistics on Migrants and Benefits’, House of Commons Library, 27 November 2014
    106. Office for National Statistics, Migration Survey Quarterly Report, February 2013, 28 February 2013 ; Office for National Statistics, Migration Survey Quarterly Report, November 20141, 27 November 2014
    107. Nadelli, A., Traynor, I. and Haddou, L., ‘Revealed: Thousands of Britons on Benefits Across EU’, The Guardian, 19 January 2015
    108. see e.g. Wintour, P. ‘The Day Britain Changes: Welfare Reforms and Coalition Cuts Take Effect’The Guardian, 31 March 2013 
    109. BBC News, ‘Nigel Farage defends Romanian comments amid racism claims’, 19 May 2014
    110. Jeffay. N, ‘Israeli Anger Over ‘African’ Crime Wave: After Rapes, Violent Backlash Targets Black Immigrants’, The Jewish Daily Forward, 27 May 2012
    111. Office of National Statistics, Crime in England and Wales, Year Ending March 2014, 17 July 2014
    112. Immigration Policy Centre, ‘From Anecdotes to Evidence: Setting the Record Straight on Immigrants and Crime’, 25 July 2013
    113. Hessing, T., ‘It’s OK to live in Poverty. It’s OK to be Hungry’, Open Democracy, 31 October 2014
    114. UK Government, Tier 2 (General) Visa
    115. Bell, B. and Machin, S., ‘The Impact of Migration on Crime and Victimisation: A report for the Migration Advisory Committee’, LSE Consulting, December 2011
    116. Sampson, R.J., ‘Rethinking Crime and Immigration’, American Sociological Association, Winter 2008
    117. Bell, B., ‘Immigrant and Crime: Evidence for the UK and Other Countries’, The Migration Observatory Briefing, 13 November 2013
    118. Full Fact, Over Here and Under Arrest: are Romanians responsible for 90% of ATM crime?, 28 October 2013
    119. Metropolitan Police, Freedom of Information Disclosure, Arrests of Romanian Nationals in 2012, 4 February 2013
    120. Metropolitan Police, Freedom of Information Disclosure, Arrests of Romanian Nationals in 2012, 4 February 2013
    121. Metropolitan Police, Freedom of Information Disclosure, Arrests of Foreign Nationals by Nationality and Specific Arrest Areas, 2008-2012, 8 January 2012
    122. Bell, B., ‘Immigrant and Crime: Evidence for the UK and Other Countries’, The Migration Observatory Briefing, 13 November 2013
    123. Mastrobuoni, G. and Pinotti, P., ‘Legal Status and the Criminal Activity of Immigrants’, Dondena Working Paper No.52, September 2012
    124. Sherwood, H., ‘Levinsky Park Migrants live in fear after Tel Aviv race riots’, The Guardian, 29 May 2012
    125. Bell, B., ‘Immigrant and Crime: Evidence for the UK and Other Countries’, The Migration Observatory Briefing, 13 November 2013
    126. Crisafis, A., ‘Charlie Hebdo Attackers: born raised and radicalised in Paris, The Guardian, 12 January 2014
    127. see e.g. Putnam, R., ‘Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital’, Journal of Democracy, 6:1, January 1995, 65-78 – although Putnam’s work was concerned with race, not national origin or migrant status
    128. see e.g. Clemens, M. and Sandefur, J., ‘Let the People Go: the Problem with Strict Migration Limits’, Foreign Affairs, January/February 2014
    129. Bell, B. and Machin, S., ‘Immigrant Enclaves and Crime’, CEP Discussion Paper No. 1104, December 2011
    130. Home Affairs Select Committee, Seventh Report, Parliamentary Session 2007-2008, para. 70-93
    131. Seelke, C.R., ‘Gangs in Central America’, Congressionsal Research Service Report for Congress, 20 February 2014
    132. Allsopp, J., Sigona, N. and Phillmore, J., ‘Poverty among Refugee and Asylum Seekers in the UK: An Evidence and Policy Review’, IRIS Working Paper No 1/2014