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Cyprus Internet Directory [ Social Services wrong to cut benefit to EU national ]

Social Services wrong to cut benefit to EU national

THE OMBUDSWOMAN has criticised the Social Welfare Services after they terminated benefit payments to an 18-year-old Greek national suffering from acute leukaemia.

Nicholas Mezirides stopped receiving payments in May 2007 on the grounds that he was ineligible for benefits based on his residency status.
The teenager moved to Paphos with his mother and brother in 2002 following his father’s death.

In 2003, the migration department granted his family unlimited ‘visitors’ status.

In 2004, he was diagnosed with acute leukaemia and started chemotherapy at Nicosia’s Makarios hospital. The same year he applied for benefits but was denied due to his visitors’ status. An agreement was reached to change his residency status on humanitarian grounds. Until the matter was taken care of he was told to reapply for benefits. The following year he started to receive benefits payments.

In October 2006, his mother received residency for work and Mezirides a permit as a family member of an EU citizen, in accordance with EU law.

This was because prior to her son’s diagnosis, Mezirides’ mother supported her family on a monthly salary of £450 which she earned working at a hotel. She had to give up her job to care for her son full time. This was confirmed by a Paphos Social Welfare Services district officer in 2006.

In May 2007, the Social Welfare Services stopped payments due to his status as a dependent of his mother’s who was in Cyprus as a European citizen on a work permit.

The Social Welfare Services decision was based on past handling of a similar case. It also said EU citizens had a right of residence as long as they did not become an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system. It said it was obliged to inform the migration department that Mezirides had been receiving benefits for 20 continuous months, with no end in sight, which could affect his right of residence.

But according to EU law, “as long as the beneficiaries of the right of residence do not become an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State they should not be expelled”.

In her report, the Ombudswoman refers to the acquis communautaire: “Therefore, an expulsion measure should not be the automatic consequence of recourse to the social assistance system. The host member state should examine whether it is a case of temporary difficulties and take into account the duration of residence, the personal circumstances and the amount of aid granted in order to consider whether the beneficiary has become an unreasonable burden on its social assistance system and to proceed to his expulsion. In no case should an expulsion measure be adopted against workers, self-employed persons or job-seekers as defined by the Court of Justice save on grounds of public policy or public security.”
Furthermore, in accordance with EU law, all union members and their families should enjoy equal treatment with nationals.

The Ombudswoman concluded that the youth’s mother worked permanently and legally in Cyprus since 2002 for employment purposes.

Her son had secured residency as a family member of union member.

The Ombudswoman said the Welfare Services’ report was based on the mistaken perception that family members of EU citizens who were given residency for employment purposes did not have the right to state aid. It said this perception ignored the existence of sufficient resources for European workers’ and their families’ upkeep and was not a condition for their residence in their country of abode.

The report also said it was important to discriminate that the competent authority to determine the right of residence was the Civil Registry and Migration department and not the Social Welfare Services.

The Ombudswoman said the principle of the equal treatment of European workers and their family members was of primary importance regarding access to social benefits.

“I believe Mr Mezirides has been subjected to inexcusable discrimination due to nationality and that the Social Welfare Services have exceeded the boundaries of their discretion of interpretation bestowed to them by law,” the report said.

The Ombudswoman suggested that Mezirides’ case be re-examined.
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(Source: Cyprus Mail)



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