East European migrants and their rights - What will happen in May 2011?

25th January 2011, Comments 0 comments

The short answer is that the rights of East European migrants (also refered to as A8 nationals) will be brought in line with the rights of other EU nationals.

The short answer is that the rights of East European migrants (also refered to as A8 nationals) will be brought in line with the rights of other EU nationals and the broadly criticised Worker Registration Scheme will be discontinued. The AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe) and MRN have prepared a briefing detailing the changes from 1 May 2011.

An often overlooked change afecting East European (A8) migrants is now only a few months away. Since 2004 when the A8 countries joined the EU (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia) the UK was allowed to apply transition arrangements regulating A8 nationals’ right to access the labour market for up to seven years. On 1 May 2011 the UK will no longer be allowed to treat A8 nationals any differently from nonaccession (e.g. French) nationals. In effect, A8 nationals will be able to access benefits on the same basis as other EU nationals.

So the biggest difference is that on 1 May 2011 any A8 national can register as a jobseeker with Jobcentre Plus for benefits purposes. If she meets the same conditions imposed on British Citizens, she should be able to get income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit right away.

Currently this is still conditional on whether the individual has registered with the Worker Registration Scheme (WRS) and has worked in the UK for a continuous period of 12 months. The AIRE Centre and MRN have long been sceptical about the compatibility with EU law of the restrictions on A8 nationals’ access to benefits under the exsting regime. The courts and tribunals in the UK have upheld these restrictions. However, the European Commission, which is responsible for overseeing the implementation of EU law, believes that at least some aspects of the restrictions on A8 nationals are unlawful.

One example of the effects this has had on the ground is exacerbating the homelessness among the East European migrants. Given that these homeless migrants do not have access to assistance available to others (which if available to them could significantly improve their situation) and are foreigners, the current official logic seems to be that the best solution is to expel them. It is still not clear if the Communities and Local Government department will continue to employ this strategy for dealing with homelessness, underpinned by the prospect of immigration enforcement across the UK in the future. Regardless AIRE Centre, ILPA and MRN maintain their belief that this scheme of coercive expulsion needs to be challenged.

You can read more about the scope of general changes to be introduced in May 2011 in this briefing.

Jan Brulc / Migrants' Rights Network

Photo: diylibrarian / Flickr

0 Comments To This Article