Sept 30, 2011 – Today’s Telegraph provides a crudely malign formulation: “benefit tourists”. Thankfully, it’s not (yet) as well-established as, say, “benefit cheats”. (Update 2013: it’s now fairly well-established – see below).
“Tourist” is, of course, a frame. There are clearly defined roles and scenarios in the tourist frame: A tourist isn’t looking for work; a tourist is not from around here; a tourist seeks pleasure, a tourist is travelling, a tourist is not escaping from hardship or persecution, or building a new life; a tourist is exploring, sight-seeing or relaxing (ie not looking for work), and perhaps she/he wears sunglasses and a stupid grin.
What’s notable about the Telegraph article (and also this BBC piece and this Daily Mail story) is that the term, “benefit tourist”, is used without any attempt to describe precisely who it refers to (eg categories, financial criteria). But we can at least infer from media coverage that if the European Commission gets its way, Britain will be flooded with “benefit tourists”.
Update (25/3/13): Apparently 93% of working-age immigrants are NOT claiming working-age benefits. The “crisis” claimed by government is “manufactured“.
Update 2 (27/11/13): Some studies have found “benefit tourism” to be largely a myth. Dominic Casciani, a BBC Home Affairs correspondent, cites some of this research (BBC News, 27 November 2013). He asked what the evidence was for widespread benefit tourism, and concluded:
“The answer is that there is very little – and it is an extremely complex picture. That does not mean that benefit tourism doesn’t exist – but what’s clear is that the evidence points strongly in the direction that people migrate to find work or for family reasons. They are less likely to up sticks to cross borders – or even continents – just for a weekly giro.” — Dominic Casciani, BBC News, 27 November 2013
But the “benefits tourism” frame now seems well-established and regularly used by the news media and politicians of both right and left. Every time the words are used, the conceptual frame is invoked and its inferences reinforced. Here’s today’s BBC headline: