Holland, Britain, Germany, Austria join forces to fight ‘welfare tourism’

EU citizens who have never worked in the Netherlands should not be allowed to claim welfare benefits (bijstand), junior justice minister Fred Teeven said on Thursday.

The Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Britain have agreed to write to the European Commission, calling on it to address their concerns about the abuse of the welfare benefit system by the members of other EU states.

Teeven is quoted as saying in the Dutch media that the four countries think it will be possible to declare [welfare claimants who have never worked] undesirable under current EU rules. The issue is seen as a serious problem in all four countries, Teeven said.

According to Teeven, 4,260 non-Dutch EU citizens were claiming welfare benefits by the end of 2011. ‘We know a certain percentage are fraudulent but we do not know exactly how many,’ he said.

The Financial Times reports that Brussels officials stress there are already measures in place to deport foreign citizens who abuse a country’s welfare system.

‘[EU citizens] are allowed to stay for a limited time [in another EU country] and if they cannot sustain or support themselves they must go back,’ the paper quotes Cecilia Malmström, EU commissioner for home affairs, as saying.

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