The European Court of Justice (ECJ), in a landmark ruling that could set precedent across the European Union, this week decreed that "economically inactive" EU migrants living in Germany could be denied welfare benefits under certain conditions.
In the case, a 25-year-old Romanian woman living in Leipzig sought to claim unemployment benefits. The court ruled she was not entitled to them because she had never actively looked for work after moving to Germany in 2010. In addition, the ECJ found that EU regulations require that EU migrants without a source of income must have sufficient resources to support themselves in their first five years spent in a different Member State.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the ruling on so-called "benefit tourism" as "simple common sense." In recent weeks, the Cameron government has floated plans to cap the number of EU migrants amid calls for an overhaul of the existing system of labor movement within the bloc, drawing a rebuke from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who defended the European Union's principle of free movement.
The ECJ decision can be interpreted as both a victory and a setback for the United Kingdom's position on free movement. On the one hand, the ruling supports the government's push to curb any benefit abuse by EU migrants (a new study by University College London found that EU migrants paid £20 billion more in taxes over the past decade than they received in benefits). On the other, the decision indicates these measures can be enacted within the existing system, making the complete overhaul sought by Cameron's government less likely.
Meanwhile, President Obama, in Burma this week, is set to pressure the government over the plight of the Rohingya minority group. Increasing violence between Buddhists and Muslims in the last two years has led to worsening treatment of the stateless Rohingya who are not recognized as citizens by either the Burmese government or neighboring Bangladesh. Thousands were displaced in 2012 with many being kept in squalid refugee camps lacking basic necessities; more than 87,000 have fled to neighboring countries.
In a recent move to address international condemnation of the humanitarian crisis, the Burmese government has begun a campaign to register the long-oppressed Rohingya as official citizens. The nationality verification program requires the Rohingya to provide documentation going back three generations. It also pressures them to renounce their identity, instead being listed as another ethnicity. If they refuse to accept the term "Bengali," preferred by the government and used to denote unauthorized migrants from Bangladesh, the registration is left incomplete. For more on migration in Burma, check out this article from the Source.Zara Rabinovitch
Editor, Migration Information Source