Rotterdam city council is to begin experimenting with checking up on the residency status of EU citizens who claim welfare benefits (bijstand) in the Netherlands, social affairs minister Lodewijk Asscher said on Wednesday.
Currently, if EU citizens request welfare benefits their claims are only investigated after they have been submitted and the money has already been paid out.
The experiment means if Rotterdam city officials have doubts about the residency status of a claimant, they will be able to check with the immigration service before considering the application.
Asscher wants to take the scheme nationwide by January 2015, but first has to discuss with the European Commission how the legislation can be implemented without infringing the right to free movement.
EU citizens have no rights to welfare benefits within three months of arriving in the Netherlands. A request for welfare benefits within five years can also be a reason to have the right to residency terminated, the social affairs ministry documents state.
In March, the Netherlands, Germany, Austria and Britain wrote to the European Commission, calling on it to address their concerns about the abuse of the welfare benefit system by the members of other EU states.
According to junior justice minister Fred Teeven at the time, 4,260 non-Dutch EU citizens were claiming welfare benefits at the end of 2011. ‘We know a certain percentage are fraudulent but we do not know exactly how many,’ he said.
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