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I am writing in response to Peter O’Dwyer’s article, in the Irish Examiner, on the “very generous” welfare payments EU citizens in Ireland “enjoy” (‘EU Citizens enjoy ‘very generous’ welfare here’, Oct 29).
Mr Dwyer deceives by omission, by failing to convey the complexities of Irish social welfare rules. Applicants — whether Irish or EU citizens — must satisfy the habitual residence requirement to access social protection.
Access to social protection for EU nationals residing in any EU state is EU law and requires member states to treat their own nationals, and nationals of other member states, in a like manner.
In providing legal support and advocacy for migrants, we have learned that it can be extremely difficult for EU nationals to access the social protection payments for which they are eligible.
A report published jointly by Nasc, Doras Luimní and Crosscare Migrant Project, in 2012, documented a system characterised by extended delays, requests for excessive documentation, unjustified refusals, the use of racist language, and discriminatory responses from social welfare officers, all of which can make accessing payments extremely difficult.
As a result of this report, moves have been made by the Department of Social Protection to improve access to social welfare payments for migrants.
Many EU nationals came to Ireland at the height of our economic boom, to work, and have settled here with their families. EU workers have been more impacted by the recession, experiencing higher levels of unemployment than Irish nationals, and are legally entitled to both contributory and non-contributory payments.
In addition, comparing the number of EU nationals in receipt of social welfare in Ireland to that of Germany is the height of misrepresentation by Mr O’Dwyer; not only are the social welfare systems profoundly different, Germany has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the EU.
Is Mr O’Dwyer suggesting that Ireland should be scaling back on the provision of welfare payments across the board, or just that EU migrants who are eligible should be subject to reduced payments by virtue of being migrants?
Fiona Finn, CEO
Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre
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