The state is to tighten its purse strings and get tougher on how benefits are handed out to migrants and asylum seekers, but those seeking protection are set for some greater security, too – such as better scrutiny of landlords.
Benefits will be axed to migrants who are not staying at the residence which they declared, while ‘pocket money’ is generally being reduced, and benefits will again be slashed when too many people are living in one place.
The cabinet recently approved a series of measures put forward by the deputy social welfare ministry to better streamline the programme, according to daily Phileleftheros.
That includes items such as pre-paid cards in which migrants will receive their benefits – meaning that the money will only be able to be spent in Cyprus. It has previously been reported that some beneficiaries of state aid were sending money back home as remittances, while the deputy ministry also bemoaned that money was being spent on alcohol and cigarettes. Efforts will also be taken to ensure that the money cannot be spent at casinos or in the north, while only a small amount will be made available in cash.
Elsewhere, the deputy ministry also envisages more scrutiny of landlords – some of whom have themselves been consistently accused of predatory practices – to ensure that there is a minimum standard of living conditions.
According to Loizos Hadjivasiliou, head of deputy social welfare minister Anastasia Anthousi’s office, officials will carry out more home visits to assess the living conditions as well as to proceed with the required action when they are found to be unsuitable.
Landlords will also be required to issue a declaration in which the number of rooms and tenants are stated. It is hoped that the measures will better equip state officials so that they can more accurately assess the living conditions and the relevant rent allowances required by each recipient.
Staff from the deputy ministry will also confirm that recipients are living at their stated address. Those who are found to be living in unsuitable quarters will have their benefits cut if they refuse to find new accommodation within two months.
Elsewhere, some benefits will be reduced or axed according to where and with whom the recipients stay.
For example, under the current programme those receiving assistance get €186 for clothing and food as well as €75 towards electricity and water bills – with these two handouts on top of those provided for rent.
But the deputy ministry wishes to change that, noting that the €75 handed out for bills was given to all recipients regardless of where and with whom they stayed – noting that those put up in hotels or with friends and families will not have as much of a need for it.
Other revisions are that the sum of €75 will be increased to €100 for two people, €140 for three, €170 for four and €200 for five or more for an applicant who provides a rental document at the stated address.
The deputy ministry is promoting the proposals as beneficial to both the migrants who will receive assistance more swiftly while the state itself will be cutting down on administrative costs.