EU states can refuse to pay jobseeker benefits to migrants, even if they are citizens of other EU nations, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.
German news site RP Online reports that the court considered the case of a Bosnian woman of Swedish nationality who lived in Berlin with her three children. She worked in Germany for almost a year but then lost her job and started claiming so-called “Hartz IV” unemployment benefit.
However, a Berlin jobcentre then withdrew her benefits, arguing that as she was a foreign citizen she had no right to claim them.
Germany’s Federal Social Court referred the matter to the ECJ, which has now sided with the jobcentre and ruled that the decision did not violate the principle of “equal treatment.”
The judge stated that EU rules allow member states to refuse unemployment benefits to people from other EU nations to stop them becoming “an unreasonable burden on the social assistance system of the host Member State”.
This backs up a 2014 ruling where the court said that “poverty immigrants” who came to Germany just to receive social security benefits were not entitled to receive them.
The ruling comes as figures show the number of asylum seekers claiming benefits in Germany rose by a staggering 61 per cent in the space of a year. The country’s statistics office said that of the 363,000 asylum seekers claiming benefits in 2014, 11 per cent were from Syria – more than double from the previous year.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is currently fighting a battle to restrict EU migrants from claiming in-work benefits for the first four years after arrival. These are not covered by the ECJ ruling, and Cameron faces a struggle to allow Britain to opt-out of the rules, with Poland signalling its opposition.
Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said: “We want Great Britain to stay in the EU. But the interest of Poles, our citizens who live in Great Britain is important.
“It’s a question of the joint market, these are basic questions. We understand the British stance. But there are also EU fundamentals on which joint Europe was forged. It will be a tough conversation, but very firm on the Polish side.”