The rights of East European migrants (also referred to as A8 nationals) will be brought in line with the rights of other EU nationals. 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, by Jan Brulc.
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 non-accession (i.e. French) nationals. In effect, A8 nationals will be able to access benefits on the same basis as other EU nationals.
The biggest difference on 1 May 2011 is that any A8 national can register as a jobseeker with Jobcentre Plus for benefits purposes. If they meet the same criteria imposed on British Citizens, they should be able to get Income-Based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit immediately.
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.
AIRE Centre and MRN have been sceptical about the compatibility of the restrictions on A8 nationals’ access to benefits with EU law under the existing regime. UK courts and tribunals 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 homelessness among East European migrants who do not have access to assistance available to others (which could significantly improve their situation). 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 introduced in May 2011 in the enclosed briefing Frequently Asked Questions about the rights A8 nationals from 1 May 2011 prepared by the AIRE Centre and MRN, which can be downloaded: -