The exclusion of asylum seekers from the Pandemic Unemployment Payment
Asylum seekers who are living in direct provision have been excluded from the Covid 19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment. Instead of receiving a weekly payment of €350, asylum seekers only receive €38.80 weekly (Daily Expenses Allowance) with an additional payment of €29.80 for minors.
In a comment to the Irish Times the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection (DEASP) 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”.
Dr Liam Thornton, Associate Professor in Law, has extensively reviewed Freedom of Information requests showing the discussions within the DEASP on the exclusion of asylum seekers in direct provision from the payment. You can read Dr. Thornton's analysis here.
Extracts from the FOIs show that there were internal struggles as to how the exclusion of people in direct provision from the payment could be justified.
“[N]ow that we are paying PUP [Pandemic Unemployment Payment] concurrently with other payments and to other non EU/EEA workers, and so long as there is a loss of employment, those receiving DEA [Daily Expenses Allowance] should probably get PUP too.”
More than 40 organisations including Nasc wrote to the DEASP to request an increase of €20 per week in the Daily Expenses Allowance. This would increase the adult payment from €38.80 weekly to €58.80 weekly. We know from our work that asylum seekers are struggling with extra costs since the beginning of the pandemic.
Residents in direct provision are no longer able to shop in discount or low-cost retailers if they don’t live within walking distance of those shops as centre buses and public transport are heavily restricted. There have been consistent reports that the WiFi in many centres is extremely poor, and students are struggling to work. Whereas before they could use a public or college library, these resources are not available so many people are spending increased amounts on phone credit. Spending on cleaning products, antibacterial hand-cleaner and resources for children have all increased. An extra €20 per week would go some ways towards addressing that however the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection has rejected this call.
You can take action now by writing to the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection asking for the Pandemic Unemployment Payment to be extended to residents in direct provision who have lost their jobs and to temporarily increase the daily expenses allowance for everyone in direct provision for the duration of the pandemic.
Download a template letter here.