A Tory candidate has said immigration is the biggest issue on the doorstep in his Norfolk constituency - and called for an end to what he claimed was an "automatic welfare entitlement" for migrants.

George Freeman, who hopes to be re-elected as Conservative MP for Mid Norfolk, said there was "deepening public anger over uncontrolled immigration" - contributing to pressure on public services, finances, benefits and housing.

Eastern Daily Press: George Freeman, the Conservative candidate for Mid NorfolkGeorge Freeman, the Conservative candidate for Mid Norfolk (Image: PA)

He said the UK had become a "soft touch" and it was time for "an end to eligibility to the free healthcare, housing, and other welfare state benefits for illegal migrants and unprocessed asylum seekers".

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Mr Freeman, who acknowledged his remarks in a speech at Dereham's Railway Tavern could spark controversy, said: "No other country - anywhere in the world - offers asylum seekers or illegal migrants benefits with the generosity we do.

Eastern Daily Press: The Railway Tavern in DerehamThe Railway Tavern in Dereham (Image: � Archant Norfolk 2014)

"We cannot blame people fleeing poverty, famine or war for wanting to come here. The evil human traffickers are to blame.

"But we can help by reforming our welfare system to remove a major reason people come here. We won’t stop the boats unless we reform the system.

"Just as we are clamping down on welfare fraud by some UK citizens, we must put an end to migrants being able to claim benefits from day one without having paid into the system.

"This is a massive magnet for welfare tourism and it’s not what the welfare state was designed for. It was not what the D-Day generation made such sacrifice for."

Mr Freeman said a "new deal" for migration and welfare systems was needed, based on the principle of a "contract of citizenship" - with those who pay in getting help when they need it.

He said that would stop welfare being a "lifestyle choice" for UK citizens and "overseas welfare tourists".

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He said a new framework was needed to manage immigration, with a quota, set by parliament, to permit a certain number of asylum seekers.

He said people seeking asylum should be processed in embassies in or nearest their country of origin and not allowed to begin that process on arrival at Dover.

Eastern Daily Press: A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover in Kent, from a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the ChannelA group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover in Kent, from a Border Force vessel following a small boat incident in the Channel (Image: Press Association)

He said families, women and children should be prioritised over single men.

He added the UK should also adopt an Australian-style points system for economic migrants.

Mr Freeman, first elected in Mid Norfolk in 2010, said: "This isn’t populism. It isn’t divisive, although some may say it is.

"I believe it’s considered, reflective, representative, decent, fair, democratic, patriotic, local Conservatism.

"The majority of Mid Norfolk constituents deeply agree. I’ve spoken to thousands of people in knocking on 8,000 doors in the last fortnight.

Eastern Daily Press: George Freeman says immigration is the biggest issue on the doorsteps in Mid Norfolk towns such as DerehamGeorge Freeman says immigration is the biggest issue on the doorsteps in Mid Norfolk towns such as Dereham (Image: Mike Page)

"The vast majority say to me, 'George, I don’t mind people coming here to work.

"'We need the brilliant foreign nurses and doctors and scientists and key workers.'

"'But we shouldn’t be paying benefits out to people who come here until they are working and paying National Insurance.'"

Mr Freeman said he was making the topic his "defining campaign mission".

READ MORE: What are the Norfolk and Suffolk election boundary changes?

Other candidates in the Mid Norfolk constituency are: Ash Haynes (Green), Stuart Howard (Liberal Democrat), Kabeer Kher (Reform UK) and Michael Rosen (Labour).



According to the independent fact checkers Full Fact, people in the UK without a legal right to be here are not entitled to claim any benefits.

But people making a claim for asylum are able to get some support.

Although they can't claim welfare benefits, like Universal Credit, while their claims are being considered, they do receive some financial support from the government.

That is £49.18 for each person in the household loaded on to a debit card - as well as help with housing if needed.

Asylum seekers whose cases are refused might also be entitled to accommodation and that payment card amount - pending them leaving the UK.

A one-off £250 maternity payment is also provided to mothers whose cases are refused whose baby is due in eight weeks or less, or is under six weeks old.

Refugees have a right to apply for welfare in the UK and are able to work in the country without any restrictions.