For third-country nationals (TCN), the legislation covers long-term residents (Law 129(I)2014 ‘On Aliens and Immigration’) and people whose legal status is based on the provisions of Law 59(I)/2014 ‘On Refugees’, with the exception of asylum seekers. The legislation also covers the victims of trafficking and exploitation of human beings in accordance with the provisions of Law 60(I)/2014 ‘On Preventing and Combating Trafficking and Exploitation of Human Beings and Protecting Victims Thereof’.
Included in the categories exempt from the law are the voluntarily unemployed and full-time students, with the exceptions of students who are orphans, who have disabilities or who, upon reaching the age of 18, were under the care of the director of social welfare services.
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The Social Welfare Services (SWS) are responsible for assessing and covering the reception conditions for asylum-seekers, as it is declared in the Reception Conditions Regulations. The SWS are mandated to perform an initial assessment of whether an asylum-seeker has sufficient resources to cover the basic and particular needs of his or her household, thus securing an adequate standard of living. The application form for the provision of material reception conditions and the general information provided to the applicants indicates a set of eligibility requirements, the level of assistance, and reasons for the termination of material assistance. These are decided by the Council of Ministers in practice, although the Regulations do not confer such power to the Council.
The SWS first examine the possibility of placing asylum-seekers in the Reception Centre upon their application for assistance. If placement is impossible, usually due to lack of availability, the SWS have the responsibility of processing applications and addressing asylum-seekers’ needs, including the allocation of an allowance, which also includes housing expenses.
Due to the lack of housing capacity at the Reception Centre, the majority of asylum- seekers reside in shared houses or apartments, which they are expected to find on their own and subsequently provide all the necessary rental documentation to the SWS. The maximum amount of material assistance for asylum-seekers is capped at €1,155 for a family of 5 or more; for an individual it caps at €361. The rental allowance is set at €100 for single persons and €218 for couples. It is increased to €317 for a family of three and can reach up to a maximum of €397 for families of five and above, without any further adjustment. Rent is directly paid to the landlord upon the submission of necessary documentation (e.g., confirmation from the Inland Revenue Department).
Both the EU Reception and Qualification Directives have emphasized the need to secure the right of asylum-seekers to social assistance, where such assistance must cover basic as well as any special needs of vulnerable persons. Asylum-seekers are not entitled to other social benefits granted to nationals, such as those provided by the Ministry of Finance, including child benefits, which are proportionate to the number of dependent children in the household. In addition, asylum-seekers are excluded from receiving the birth benefit or the child benefit given to single mothers. Furthermore, they cannot apply for student grants that are given to nationals who secure positions in universities.
Asylum-seekers are also excluded from receiving grants and benefits from the Department for Social Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance, which includes various schemes aimed to help disabled persons, such as: a special allowance for visual impairment; mobility allowance; financial assistance schemes for the provision of technical means and other aids and care allowance schemes for paraplegic and quadriplegic persons.