European Court of Justice Supports UK In Denying Social Assistance To EEA Migrants
In what many will see as a blow for the principle of free movement; the European Court of Justice (ECJ) effectively stated via a non-binding opinion last week that the UK Government has a right to place controls over its distribution of public funds. It did this by saying the ECJ should dismiss the European Commission's challenge to UK welfare restrictions for EU migrants.
The ruling was seen as a victory for the UK Conservative Government, as one of the key issues they plan to negotiate with the EU is the right to freely control and reform the British welfare system.
Background to the Statement
The European Commission announced in 2014 that it would be taking the UK to Court over its controversial ‘right to reside’ test which they believe discriminates between UK and Irish citizens and other EU nationals when it comes to the right to claim benefits in the UK.
Although EEA nationals who enter the UK usually have a lawful right to be in the country due to the free movement principle, in order to claim benefits, an individual must also have a right to reside, or legal residence in order to satisfy one element of the Habitatual Residence Test. The other element of the test is the applicant must prove they are a habitatual resident of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Mann or Ireland.
Your right to reside in the UK can depend on a number of circumstances including a person’s:
- Immigration status
- family circumstances
- the right to reside under UK law
- the right to reside under European Treaty rights
The statement, made by one of the ECJ’s Advocate-Generals was given during a case which held that Germany was indeed entitled to refuse certain benefits to an out-of-work Spanish migrant on the grounds that “Granting entitlement to social assistance to EU citizens who are not required to have sufficient means of subsistence could result in relocation en masse liable to create an unreasonable burden on national social security systems.”
Germany’s labour ministry, which is drawing up plans to curb welfare abuse, said: “From now on, incoming EU citizens must, in principle, support themselves [financially].”
The case stems from claims filed by a Romanian woman, who gave birth during her stay in Leipzig, eastern Germany. She received child benefits worth €317 per month but was refused unEmployment support when the authorities decided she was not actively seeking a job. The 25-year-old has no professional qualifications, little education and does not speak German.
The ECJ declared that Ms Dano and her son “cannot claim a right of residence in Germany” because they do not have enough resources to support themselves.
The Consequences of the Decision
The UK media cited this statement as a victory for David Cameron and his push to make it harder for EEA migrants in the UK. Everyone knows that when it comes to the principle of free movement, the Commission is highly unlikely to make any compromises on such a fundamental principle of the EU ethos. Therefore, the only way for the Conservatives to curtail EEA Immigration is to make it as difficult as possible for migrants to build a life once they arrive here.
Will the ECJ take the recommendation and dismiss the Commissions challenge to the UK’s welfare restrictions? Watch this space to find out.
At OTS Solicitors, we have the experience and expertise to advise you on the law regarding the right to reside and the ability to obtain public funds when you enter the UK. To find out more, please phone our London office on 0207 936 9960 to speak to one of our Immigration solicitors.
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