In the News / Legal Topics

EU migrants can be refused benefits, in some circumstances

An opinion coming from one of Europe’s most senior lawyers may impact on the UK election and throw into question what rights European migrants have in their host countries.

Following hot on the heels of last year’s European Court of Justice decision in Dano -v- Jobcenter Leipzig, the latest opinion of the Advocate General has suggested that if a migrant has already worked in the host country they should not be penalised.

The case, referred by Germany to the European Court, involves Nazifa Alomanovic, a Swedish mother and her three children.  Following their move to Germany in June 2010, the mother and her eldest daughter took up employment in temporary contracts.  That employment came to an end in May 2011, however the local job centre continued to pay benefits, including subsistence costs, until May 2012, when it stopped.  German law states that non-nationals, whose residency rights arise solely from looking for work, may not claim benefits.

Germany’s Federal Social Court said this policy was against the principle of equal treatment of migrants. The Advocate General, Melchior Wathelet, who’s opinion may sway but will not bind the Court, has now suggested that Germany was wrong to stop benefits to Mrs Alimanovic, saying, “Exclusion from social assistance benefits, provided for by the German legislation, is not applicable to the situation of Ms Alimanovic”.

The opinion suggests that EU nationals who move to another member state to seek employment are not entitled to social benefits, but they cannot automatically be denied them if they have already worked in the host country and stayed longer than three months. They must be given a reasonable priod to establish a link with the country which, in Mrs Alimanovic’s case includes her having looked for a job “for a reasonable period”.

Prime Minister David Cameron has not been shy in saying that he and the Conservative party want to see reform in this area from the EU.  The current case may lead to the support of many supporters who want to see the UK step out of Europe.  We will have to wait until the ECJ makes its decision before any changes become binding.


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