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Report highlights barriers to welfare faced by immigrants

Last update - Thursday, March 1, 2012, 15:07 By Catherine Reilly

UNFAIR BARRIERS are preventing some immigrants from accessing social protection payments, says a new report.

The study – titled Person Or Number? – was compiled by Crosscare, Doras Luimni and Nasc, and provides a snapshot of the experiences of 54 immigrants who presented their experiences to six NGOs across the country.
The authors conclude that provision of accurate information on social protection “is not being carried out consistently” and that “adversorial approaches, reliance on speculation and the use of inappropriate, aggressive and racist language” by staff require urgent action.
The study also calls for a Government commitment to “fairly implement” the habitual residence condition, as current practices are “putting people into poverty at an alarming level”.
Habitual residence requires that an applicant’s “main centre of interest” is Ireland in order to access certain payments, but the definition is not enshrined in law and is decided on a case-by-case basis by welfare officials.
The cases comprised of 17 EU and 37 non-EU nationals, with some 11 relating to access to contribution-based payments and 43 involving means-tested payments.
Among the case studies presented was ‘Aduke’, a Nigerian immigrant who attained residency under the now defunct Irish-Born Child scheme following her arrival in 2003.
A lone parent, she was in receipt of the One Parent Family payment before embarking on a three-week trip to visit family in Nigeria in November 2010. According to the case study, she had informed her social welfare office and community welfare officer of the holiday beforehand and was told there would be “no problem”. When she returned, however, she received a letter from the Department of Social Protection informing her that she was not now habitually resident, a decision she appealed in January 2011.
“At time of writing she was being supported by friends hoping that her payments will be restored,” says the report.
Alarmingly, of the 54 cases examined, 10 people had “found themselves in situations of homelessness” following their interaction with the social protection system.
Among the report’s recommendations is a call for Justice Minister Alan Shatter to develop a new national anti-racism plan
The six NGOs to which the immigrants had variously presented were Crosscare Housing and Welfare Information; Migrant Rights Centre Ireland; the Integration Centre; Doras Luimni; Longford Women’s Link; and Nasc, the Irish Immigrant Support Centre.

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