One Nigerian man and his wife had illegally claimed €33,000
A joint operation by gardai and the Department of Social and Family Affairs has uncovered social welfare fraud involving more than €2.2m in false claims by asylum seekers so far this year.
This brings the total value of savings from false benefit claims by asylum applicants to €14m since August 2004.
The fraud clampdown was carried out by detectives from the Garda National Immigration Bureau and social welfare officials under Operation Gull, which combats illegal immigrant activities.
Figures obtained by the Irish Independent last night showed that one Nigerian man and his wife had illegally claimed almost €33,000 a year in social welfare before the racket was discovered.
Another Nigerian, living in Birmingham, had been claiming €2,240 a month in benefits, although he was stated to have left the country in 2005.
Gardai have been working closely with the UK immigration authorities in a series of investigations to curb the illegal activities.
Operation Gull was also responsible for social welfare savings of €3.9m last year.
Commenting on the figures, Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said last night that Gull had been a great success since its inception in 2004 and the extent of the savings in social welfare fraud was an indication of the scale of the abuses being perpetrated.
"Operation Gull illustrates how close co-operation between the authorities here, the North and the UK, can save millions of euro and ensure that those genuinely in need do not lose out", the minister said.
Immigration officials said the results from Gull also underlined the problems involving asylum seekers and persons granted refugee status here using the Border into Northern Ireland to return regularly to their home countries.
These included people who had sought refugee status here on the basis that they had fled in terror from their homes and feared for their lives if they were sent back there.
A snapshot of some of the biggest abuses include :
l A Nigerian woman who applied for asylum here in 2003 and was granted refugee status in 2005 and who was subsequently found to have a multi-entry visa for the UK, which she sought while living in Lagos. She had previously claimed in her asylum application that she had been forced to flee from Nigeria. She is still living here in receipt of rent allowance of €1,143 a month and payments of €245.80 weekly.
l A Nigerian man was stopped in Belfast on his way to Dublin, had two Nigerian passports, one which gave him permission to live in Ireland and the other to reside in the UK. He was registered to live here with his Nigerian wife on the basis that they had an Irish-born child but he had also been granted the right to live in the UK on the basis of a marriage to a Portuguese woman. He works in the UK but he and his wife claim social welfare benefits of €32,677.60 a year from the Irish State.
l Another Nigerian man was stopped in Belfast while in transit to Birmingham. He had been here to collect his monthly social welfare benefit of €2,240. He is suspected of sub letting a house in Longford and is stated to have left the country in 2005.
l An Indian man arrived at Dublin airport for a week-long visit but was picked up by immigration officials at Holyhead port while attempting to enter the UK. He was served with illegal entry papers and returned to Dublin port. But within four hours he was discovered at Belfast docks where he claimed to be Sri Lankan.