Covid-19 unemployment payments will be stopped if recipients caught travelling abroad

Covid-19 unemployment payments will be stopped if recipients caught travelling abroad

OVER 100 people have had their Covid-19 unemployment payments halted by the Government after they were caught attempting to travel abroad.

Despite the publication of a Green List, Irish citizens are urged not to travel abroad this year and to 'staycation' in Ireland instead.

However, while it is not illegal to travel abroad, anyone in receipt of the Pandemic Unemployment Payment (PUP) or Jobseekers Allowance who attempts to travel will have their weekly payments cut.

Social Welfare Inspectors have been performing checks at Irish airports and the Department of Social Protection has confirmed that 104 people have had their pandemic payments stopped after the story was first reported by the Sunday Business Post.

44 other payments-- including jobseekers allowance-- have also been halted since 7 July this year.

Social Welfare Inspectors are performing checks on passengers leaving Ireland. Image: Getty

In a statement, the Department said the Pandemic Unemployment Payment "is not paid to people who go on holidays abroad or when they are going through their 14-day quarantine period", only to people who are actively seeking work.

Irish passengers in airports can be subject to interviews with trained investigators, can have their employers' PRSI records audited and can be subject to joint investigations with other agencies including Revenue and Gardaí.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar appeared on RTÉ's This Week In Politics yesterday where he confirmed "the Department of Social Protection gets information from the airports and if somebody is not genuinely seeking work or is not living in the country anymore their welfare payments can be stopped".

To receive the Pandemic Unemployment Payment, he reiterated, you must be "seeking work and resident in Ireland and not travelling abroad".

The new measure has proved controversial, as the Government have previously stated that they would not be introducing mandatory quarantine on passengers arriving from coronavirus hotspots such as the United States as it would be "impossible to enforce" but have introduced multi-agency inspections on citizens leaving Ireland.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald took aim at the Government's travel policy in a Tweet where she wrote:

"Best not to go, but you can go, but we will punish you for going, but only if you are in receipt of the Covid unemployment payment, the rest of you shouldn't go but you can go.

"Not simple but very straightforward."

TD Neasa Hourigan of the Green Party responded to the new measures with a short statement on Twitter, where she said "Unless travel is absolutely vital and necessary we should all be staying home.

"However I will be writing to the [department] to get clarity on how and why we would police one particular group in this way and in what circumstances Dublin Airport provides this information."

A spokesperson for Dublin Airport have stated they are not sharing passenger data with third parties such as the Revenue Office, and do not have access to such data themselves, despite Tánaiste Leo Varadkar stating the airports were providing the information.