Helen McEntee TD

Minister for Justice


Dear Minister,

We are writing in relation to an article published in the Irish Examiner on September 1st, 2020 entitled „Welfare check for pandemic fraud targeted Eastern European flights” (https://www.irishexaminer.com/news/arid-40041488.html).

The author of the article states that it has emerged that the vast majority of airport checks for those suspected of abusing welfare benefits (e.g. the Pandemic Unemployment Payment) during the Covid-19 pandemic were aimed at flights to Eastern Europe. It seems that no checks/limited checks were carried out on flights to different destinations, including English-speaking countries such as the UK or the USA. Data obtained through FOI from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection clearly confirm these practices. 

            We have also learned, through our own community channels, of many incidents between April and August 2020, where Eastern European migrants were checked at airports without being advised clearly as to the nature of these checks. In many of these cases, the people complained that subsequently their social welfare payments, including child benefit, were stopped, before being later reinstated. Many of such social welfare payments were the only source of their income, thus, decision had a severe impact on their condition of life.

            The above practices look like a deliberate profiling of specific nationalities, which is very alarming. The fact that flights to other specific countries were not targeted in this way seems to confirm the existence of profiling. It is wholly inappropriate to deliberately target passengers of flights to countries froma which the majority of migrants living and working in Ireland come.

            We are requesting a comprehensive review of practices at the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection regarding checks for social welfare fraud. We would like to understand how the aforementioned airport checks were decided upon; what the scale of this practice was; what protocols were in place; and how the data gathered were used.

            In addition to the above, we also ask that any decision to stop social welfare payments needs to be clearly explained as well as any decision to reinstate it.

As Forum Polonia, an organisation advocating for the Polish diaspora in Ireland and supporting its involvement in Irish society, we remain ready for a meeting to discuss all the above with you.

            Needless to say, we truly hope that profiling did not drive these practices. Given the scale of the contribution of Eastern European migrants to the economic, social and cultural life of Ireland, this would be very disappointing if it were the case.

Your sincerely,

Barnaba Dorda

Chair of Forum Polonia’s Board of Directors