Judge rejects Roma immigrant’s claim social welfare benefits criteria breach EU law

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A Romanian mother of two has lost her High Court action alleging the Department of Social Protection’s grounds for refusing to pay her various welfare benefits, including child benefit, breach EU law.

The woman came here in 2008 and said she survived by selling the Big Issue, begging and on charity food vouchers and, apart from some exceptional needs payments, got no benefits.

A member of the Roma community, she said her family fled their home, “such as it was”, in Waterford in 2014 when “angry gangs” protested outside.

When she applied in 2014 for benefits, she was refused because, at that time, she had no right to reside in the State as required by the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 and was therefore ineligible.

She argued the right to reside test was incompatible with EU law and contended the properly applicable test depends on the nature and objective of the payments — Supplementary Welfare Allowance, Jobseekers Allowance and child benefit.

The Department argued several decisions of the Irish and European courts supported its application of the right to reside test.

When the case was before the High Court in 2015, the woman had secured a right to reside because her partner had recently got work but she argued she was entitled to be considered for retrospective payments in line with appropriate tests for each benefit.

In her reserved judgment on Friday, Ms Justice Iseult O’Malley (appointed to the Supreme Court since hearing the case), refused the reliefs.


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