Thousands of European migrants are living off benefits after moving to Britain without a job, costing taxpayers £10 million a year in subsidised rent, new figures disclose.
An estimated 3,000 unemployed immigrants arrive from Europe each year to claim Housing Benefit of about £100 a week, government analysis suggests.
More than half continue to claim state support for housing costs for at least six months, while almost one-third have been receiving the hand-out for more than a year without working.
The figures from the Department for Work and Pensions represent the first time the government has published an official estimate of the scale of so-called European “benefit tourism”.
In this case, the analysis focuses on one part of the welfare system, housing benefit, in an attempt to show how many European immigrants claim taxpayer-funded help without paying tax or National Insurance themselves.
The figures indicate the potential extent of exploitation of Britain’s welfare system by European migrants who use immigration rules to travel to the UK without jobs and live off benefits.
However, the results are likely to be an under-estimate, as they are based on a snapshot of one 12 month period in 2011-12 and a large proportion of immigrants continue to claim the payments for more than a year.
Ministers have this month introduced new limits banning future waves of migrants from claiming housing benefit unless they have already found work.