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EU to overhaul jobless benefits for foreigners

The European Commission on Tuesday proposed to overhaul rules on benefits for EU migrants in a bid to quell rising anti-immigration sentiment in Europe after the shock Brexit vote.

The new proposal by European Social Affairs Commissioner Marianne Thyssen comes six months after Britain voted to quit the EU on a wave of anti-migrant anger and allegations of benefit tourism by EU citizens living in Britain.

“We need labour mobility to help restore economic growth and competitiveness. But mobility needs to be based on clear, fair and enforceable rules,” Thyssen said in a statement.

This proposal “safeguards free movement and protects citizens’ rights, while strengthening the tools to address possible abuse,” she added.

Under the proposals from by the Commission, the EU’s executive arm, EU citizens would have to work at least three months in a new bloc country before being able to claim full unemployment benefits.

As the rules now stand, migrants can claim previous work in another EU country when calculating jobless benefits in a new one. Critics say this creates an incentive for benefits tourism.

Also in the proposal, workers living in one EU country and crossing daily into another for work will receive unemployment benefits from where they work instead of where they live.

This would impact countries such as Belgium and France whose border residents cross into higher-paying Luxembourg.

Expected earlier this year, the release of the proposals was delayed as to not create a clash during the sensitive Brexit campaign.

Reports said an earlier version included a limit on child benefits that matched the terms of a doomed deal with Britain intended to help then prime minister David Cameron persuade voters to vote “Remain” in the June referendum.

The package of proposals now goes for discussion to the European Parliament and EU member states.