The Dublin government has been accused of telling the unemployed to ‘get out and stay out’ amid further evidence of a crackdown on claims for social welfare by returning emigrants.
Crosscare, a group that provides advice to Irish migrants, has said a growing number of returning emigrants are being refused welfare, often on spurious grounds related to the recession.
One man who returned to live with his wife and child after four years abroad was recently refused an emergency payment because a community welfare officer argued he had reduced his chances of getting a job by returning home.
“At present, Ireland has one of the highest rates of unemployment in all 25 EU states. By voluntarily remaining in this State, you are, therefore deemed to have placed yourself in a position where you will not be able to provide for your own independent financial support,” said the letter refusing his claim for a payment.
Two other Irish nationals who were refused social welfare last year were left destitute and homeless, according to Crosscare.
Department of Social Protection figures show 1,723 Irish nationals were refused welfare payments because they did not satisfy “habitual residency rules” in 2008 and 2009, compared to 853 in the previous two-year period.
These figures do not include details on the number of people refused emergency payments, a statistic which is not made available by the government.
Joe O’Brien, policy officer at Crosscare, said a decision to link welfare to the state of the economy was “outrageous”.
“It is getting to the stage where we have to consider warning people that if they emigrate now and return within a few years, the State may refuse to grant them social welfare,” said Mr O’Brien.
Fine Gael spokesman on social protection Michael Ring said he is being contacted by more and more Irish people facing problems with welfare claims on their return from a few years abroad.
“I am not aware of any other country that treats its emigrants like this. I think the Government could face a test case on this shortly,” he said.
Meanwhile, immigration reform campaigners in the US have expressed concern about a proposed change to US law, which means the birth certificates of children of illegal Irish and other immigrants would be marked differently to the children of US citizens.
Former US democratic congressman and attorney Bruce Morrison said the proposal, made earlier this month by the group State Legislators for Legal Immigration, would take away the automatic right to citizenship afforded to those born in the US under the 14th Amendment to the US constitution.
“Right now we have a very simple system of what makes you a citizen. You were born in the United States, end of question,” Mr Morrison said. “Now the question would be who are your parents and are they legal?”
He said the idea of birthright citizenship had been “earned by the blood of people who died in the [American] civil war to end slavery and second-class citizenship for black people, so messing around with this is like reopening this huge scar of American history”.
Mr Morrison, who gave his name to a successful visa scheme in the early 1990s which saw over 40,000 receive visas for the US, said it should be pointed out to the Irish people “that they already did worse than this [to] people who are immigrants in Ireland” in the 2004 referendum which changed citizenship law in the 26 Counties.