Tuesday, 27 January 2004

Questions (906)

Richard Bruton

Question:

1027 Mr. R. Bruton asked the Minister for Social and Family Affairs if her Department publishes figures for the cost of supporting the living expenses of asylum seekers; if she monitors newspaper reports on this issue to ensure that misleading reports do not get into circulation; and her views on the veracity of a newspaper article (details supplied). [1420/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Family)

The income maintenance needs of asylum seekers are met for the most part through the supplementary welfare allowance scheme which is administered on behalf of my Department by the health boards.

In the case of asylum seekers who are catered for within the direct provision system which is operated by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform a reduced rate of supplementary welfare allowance is paid to take account of the fact that they are provided with full board and other services within that system.

My Department does not publish details of expenditure relating specifically to asylum seekers. Details of social welfare recipients' immigration status are not held on my Department's computer systems. It is not possible, therefore, to identify expenditure relating specifically to asylum seekers. However, the Department's records show that expenditure in 2003 under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme in cases where the head of household was a non-national was in the region of €132.5 million. The expenditure includes payments to people who are asylum seekers, former asylum seekers who have been granted leave to remain in the State by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, refugees and other non-nationals with no present or former connection to the asylum system.

A small number of asylum seekers are in receipt of other social welfare payments such as unemployment payments, one-parent family payments, pensions, disability allowance and child benefit. Details of the numbers and costs involved in these categories are not available.

Most of the costs quoted in the article mentioned by the Deputy relate to accommodation and other costs of the asylum process incurred by the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform.

All the other statistics in the article relate to the asylum process which is the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform. In the circumstances, it would be a matter for the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform to confirm whether or not the information is accurate.