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Written Answers. - Asylum Seekers.

Tuesday, 26 November 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 558 No. 1

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 489. Mr. Crowe Information on Sean Crowe Zoom on Sean Crowe  asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs Information on Mary Coughlan Zoom on Mary Coughlan  the benefits to which asylum seekers and refugees are entitled; if she will provide a list of those entitlements; the number of people claiming those benefits; and the annual cost to the State. [23384/02]

[339]Minister for Social and Family Affairs (Mary Coughlan): Information on Mary Coughlan Zoom on Mary Coughlan Asylum seekers who arrived since 10 April 2000 are provided with full board accommodation, including meals and other services under the direct provision system operated by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

The income maintenance needs of asylum seekers are met for the most part by the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, which is administered by the health boards on behalf of my Department. This scheme is subject to a means test. A weekly allowance of €19.10 per adult and €9.60 per child is paid to asylum seekers in the direct provision system to provide for personal requisites. Where there are other reasonable expenses exceptional needs payments are made by the health boards.

All asylum seekers who arrived before 10 April 2000 and some who arrived since then live outside the direct provision system. In these cases they may receive the full standard rate of supplementary welfare allowance including rent supplement and diet and heating supplement, subject to the same conditions as any other recipients.

Asylum seekers who applied for asylum before 26 July 1999 and who had completed 12 months in the asylum process but whose cases had not been decided are able to seek employment.

Refugees, that is people whose claim for asylum is successful, are entitled to assistance under the social welfare system on the same basis as Irish citizens. For example, they can seek employment but if they are unable to secure employment they will qualify for unemployment assistance if they fulfil the standard conditions of being available for, capable of and genuinely seeking work and if their means are below the qualifying limit. [340] Similarly they may qualify for other supports such as one-parent family payment or old age pension subject to the same conditions that apply to all other applicants for these payments.

Details of social welfare recipients' immigration status are not held on my Department's computer systems. It is not possible to state how many payments are made to asylum seekers or to refugees. The Department's records show that weekly basic supplementary welfare allowance payments were made to 10,481 households in the week ending 15 November in cases where the head of household was a non-national. In addition, 6,082 rent supplements were paid to non-nationals in the same week.

There are 625 claims for unemployment payments currently in payment to asylum seekers.

A small number of asylum seekers and refugees are in receipt of other social welfare payments such as one-parent family payments, pensions, disability allowance and child benefit. Details of the numbers involved in these categories are not available.

It is estimated that expenditure under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme in 2002 on non-nationals, including asylum seekers and refugees, will be in the region of €111 million.

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