'My business closed and I couldn't find long-term work'...
LAST MONTH Helena gave birth to her daughter Anna. Four weeks later, she faces the possibility of eviction from a homeless hostel in Dublin with Anna, her two sons Ondrey and Patrick, and her husband Stefan.
The family, who are originally from the Czech Republic, are just one of hundreds – and possibly thousands – of EU migrant families experiencing destitution as the recession tightens its grip.
Stefan and his family arrived in Ireland in 2006 to find work and create a new life. He worked for several months as a self- employed painter, but work dried up as the economy slowed. He picked up sporadic work here and there but ended up relying on benefits.
“My business closed and I couldn’t find any long-term work. They have now stopped our social welfare benefits and want to send us back to the Czech Republic,” says Stefan, who is a member of the Roma community.
“I dont want to go back to the Czech Republic. There is no work in the country for me and there is discrimination against the Roma. My children will get a better education at school here in Ireland.”
The Health Service Executive (HSE) has ruled Stefan and his family are not eligible for social benefits because he doesn’t satisfy the habitual residence conditions.
Stefan says the family has now been told to leave the hostel by Monday.
The HSE has referred the family to the Reception and Integration Agency for a return flight. But Stefan says he doesn’t want to go back.
“Roma face discrimination in the Czech Republic and we have nothing to go back for,” he says.
But with no access to social welfare payments and facing possible eviction from their Dublin hostel, the family have very few options to pursue their life in Ireland.
In a statement last night, the HSE said “the family concerned are and will be accommodated so therefore it is not correct to suggest that the family were requested to leave by Sunday.”
Report by JAMIE SMYTH - Irish Times