Irish citizens returning home from abroad are facing significant barriers to housing and social welfare, a government committee has heard.
Representatives from Safe Home, Cross Care and The Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas say lack of knowledge, delays in administration and the current housing problems are plunging some returning emigrants into crisis situations. The committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade heard that many people are blocked from returning to Ireland because those with children or a partner from non-European Economic Area (EEA) countries like Australia are not automatically given a visa, and when applying for the visa from Ireland, the partner is not eligible to work.
Richard King, from Crosscare, said: “The reason a majority of people return is to be closer to family. They left Ireland after college and now want to come back to raise their family here, but this process acts as a deterrent and is difficult. One Irish citizen I dealt with in New Zealand is pregnant and cannot return home because they cannot survive if she and her partner cannot work for six months.”
It was noted that EU citizens who have a non-EEA partner do not face the same visa requirements, meaning returning Irish citizens have a “lesser” status than current EU citizens.
Another growing trend for returning emigrants being refused social welfare is because of lack of access to information on the Habitual Resident Condition. The Habitual Residence Condition (HRC) is a situation that you must satisfy in order to be eligible for most means-tested social welfare payments in Ireland.
Danielle McLaughlin from Cross Care said the people facing these issues are some of the most vulnerable returning home.
“In majority of these cases individuals face vulnerable situations with no income or family support,” she said. “Last year, we dealt with 280 queries and worked directly on 18 cases on HRC, and every case successfully appealed. There is a five- to nine-month long delay and those surveyed said the process was intimidating, demeaning, and made them feel guilty.”
She added that those dealing with the process said there was a lack of information on the process and that it was actively deterring emigrants from returning home.
Karen McHugh, from Safe Home Ireland, referred to one case of an Irish citizen returning to care for an elderly uncle who was turned down for carers allowance and not considered a habitual resident.
The committee’s chairman, Fianna Fáil’s Brendan Smith, said there was a totally unacceptable delay in carer allowances applications and said every committee member had faced similar issues with their own constituents.
The groups asked that the 30 recommendations in the Economic Report on Addressing Challenges Faced by Returning Irish Emigrants be acted upon because no time frame has been set, nor any productive action taken. They have also asked that provisions be made in the housing allocation system for returning emigrants, especially for elderly people.