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EU migrants can be refused benefits

As the European Union struggles with economic recovery, immigration has remained a thorny issue. In the latest ruling by the European Court of Justice, migrants may qualify for benefits only under special circumstances.

European Union member states may stop benefits to EU migrants unless they have already worked in the host country, a top lawyer for the EU said on Thursday.

Even actively seeking work in another EU country was not enough of a justification to claim social assistance benefits at the same time,

European Court of Justice Advocate General Melchior Wathelet said

.

His latest opinion was based on a case brought by Germany and will most likely be welcomed by Eurosceptic parties in the EU, which urge governments to do more to prevent so-called "benefit tourism" by EU migrants.

European Court of Justice judges will consider Wathelet's arguments in their final ruling.

Wathelet's view supports the November precedent, which dictated EU migrants can be denied benefits if they move to a country without any intention of finding a job.

Britain is also closely following the case. Last week

British Prime Minister David Cameron

called for a "wide-scale change to the rules on welfare and benefits," in reference to popular suspicion that EU immigrants come to Britain to sponge off the state.

"This confirms that the right to live and work elsewhere in the EU is not the same as the right to claim benefits," said Catherine Bearder, a British liberal in the European Parliament.

Watch video 01:24

Is Germany too tough on EU immigrants?

German case different

In the case brought before the EU court, Swedish mother-of three Nazifa Alimanovic stopped receiving social benefits in Germany in 2012 after becoming unemployed. She had worked in the country between June 2010 and May 2011.

But European Court of Justice's Wathelet said those who had worked in their host country should not be penalized. Withholding benefits in this case was wrong of Germany, Wathelet said.

"Exclusion from social assistance benefits, provided for by the German legislation, is not applicable to the situation of Ms Alimanovic," he said.

el/uhe (Reuters, European Court of Justice)

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