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Man who was asked for passport at boarding gates for 'immigration check' had PUP stopped, Dáil told

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"At the boarding gates he was stopped by plainclothes gardaí, who said they were conducting an immigration check. They took his passport and then gave it back" (stock photo)

"At the boarding gates he was stopped by plainclothes gardaí, who said they were conducting an immigration check. They took his passport and then gave it back" (stock photo)

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"At the boarding gates he was stopped by plainclothes gardaí, who said they were conducting an immigration check. They took his passport and then gave it back" (stock photo)

A man asked for his passport by plainclothes gardaí at an airport boarding gate subsequently had his pandemic unemployment payment (PUP) stopped – even though he was told it was an immigration check.

The Dáil heard about Kieran, a 25-year-old “who has paid taxes all his life until he lost his job through no fault of his own.” He took a flight in May, said Rise TD Paul Murphy.

“At the boarding gates he was stopped by plainclothes gardaí, who said they were conducting an immigration check. They took his passport and then gave it back. He got on the plane.

“He came back, and his PUP payment had been stopped. He contacted the Department of Social Protection who told him he was on this particular flight, and therefore his PUP was being taken off,” Mr Murphy said.

He asked the Taoiseach on what legal basis the gardaí had asked for his passport on one basis and then transferred information over to the Department of Social Protection on another.

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Rise TD Paul Murphy 
Picture: Collins

Rise TD Paul Murphy Picture: Collins

Rise TD Paul Murphy Picture: Collins

After representations on the man’s behalf, the payment had been restored, he noted, making it more doubtful there had been any legal basis to what had happened.

Micheal Martin said he was “not responsible for operational decision than on the ground in respect of compliance.” Such control checks had been in place since 2012, he said, adding firmly: “The checks are there, and this will continue.”

The Taoiseach declared: “The Government has no agenda to single out anybody.” He said that 90 per cent of PUP interceptions at the airport were foreign residents – a subtle change of previous claims that this overwhelming majority related to people who were “leaving Ireland permanently.”

He added that the small number of holiday cases relating to PUP cancellations were now under review.

Mr Murphy said he also knew of a new social welfare applicant who was sent “important information about your Jobseekers benefits,” which told him: “You may take up to two weeks paid holidays in a calendar year.”

The claimant was told he must inform him Intreo office before he went on holiday. “Full stop. Nothing about travel advisory, nothing about green lists, red lists or anything else,” Mr Murphy said.

“You may take holidays, you have to tell us -- but if that person then took holidays, they could lose all of their income. All of it,” he said.

“It's deeply immoral, to have this blatant discrimination. It's illegal, no legal basis for the discrimination, as has been pointed out by FLAC, the Free Legal Advice Centres."

He also pointed to the case of a woman who was booked on a ferry, but who didn't take the trip in the end. “Yet she lost her PUP simply because she'd been booked aboard, even though she didn't take it up.”

The Taoiseach said in reply: “Of course you don't want to hear the fact that the Pandemic Unemployment Payment has been a very substantial and effective intervention in our economy.”

He told Mr Murphy: “You can't bring yourself to say that you can't bring yourself to say that the wage subsidy scheme was a very effective intervention.”

Social Protection Minister Heather Humphreys said her officials will review cases where people lost their PUP payment when they travelled abroad.

“I've listened to the concerns expressed in recent days in relation to people whose payment was stopped due to the fact that they were travelling abroad, on a holiday," Minister Humphreys said.

“And I know that there are cases where people may have travelled abroad and genuinely not been aware of the travel guidance, or criteria, which applied to PUP.

“I accept that my Department could have communicated more effectively on this issue. For that reason I have directed the Department to review all cases today for people who went on holiday and had their payments stopped.”

Online Editors