Asylum seekers who worked pre-pandemic not eligible for Covid-19 support

Asylum seekers who temporarily received €350 per week have been put back on €38.80 weekly stipend

Those living in direct provision centres stopped receiving the Covid  welfare payment after a fortnight, and were put back on the €38.80 weekly allowance for adults in the asylum system

Those living in direct provision centres stopped receiving the Covid welfare payment after a fortnight, and were put back on the €38.80 weekly allowance for adults in the asylum system

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Asylum seekers living in direct provision who were in work before the pandemic but lost their jobs because of the health crisis have stopped receiving the Covid-19 unemployment payment.

Asylum seekers with permission to work who became unemployed following the coronavirus outbreak initially received the State’s Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment of €350 per week.

However, it has emerged that those living in direct provision centres stopped receiving this welfare payment after a fortnight, and were put back on the €38.80 weekly allowance (€155.20 per month) for adults in the asylum system.

Asylum seekers living outside direct provision have continued to receive the payment.

Asked to clarify why the payment had stopped for those in the accommodation system, a spokeswoman for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection said people in direct provision already had their “accommodation and other basic needs met by the State, and the Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment is not available to them”.

Some 1,208 people living in direct provision were working at the end of 2019, according to Department of Justice figures.

Fiona Finn, chief executive of migrant rights group Nasc, described it as “deeply unfair” that asylum seekers had stopped receiving the State Covid-19 support, and warned that those in self-employment, who must continue payment of rent and overheads, had been particularly affected.

“It is unclear why such an unfair distinction has been made,” said Ms Finn. “For other workers receipt of carer’s allowance or working family payment does not affect their eligibility to claim the Covid-19 payment. There is no justifiable reason why a reduction of over €311 per week should be made because people are living in direct provision.”

No response

Nick Henderson, chief executive of the Irish Refugee Council (IRC), said he had contacted Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection Regina Doherty on three occasions since late March requesting an explanation for why direct provision residents had stopped receiving the pandemic payment. He has not received a response to date.

A letter was also sent to Ms Doherty this week, signed by more than 40 organisations working with asylum seekers including the IRC, expressing concern that people in direct provision were not receiving additional support during the pandemic, and requesting that the weekly stipend be increased by €20 for both adults and children.

Minister for Health Simon Harris said on Thursday there were 164 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in direct provision centres, with nine clusters around the country and 10 people hospitalised with the virus.

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