The Jobcenter had accused the Nigerian couple of staying outside Germany while they were receiving basic social security benefits in the country/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

Germany: Recipients of basic income support must stay in the country, court rules

According to a judgement of the Lower Saxony-Bremen State Social Court, recipients of basic social security benefits (Grundsicherung) must be able to prove their place of residence to the authorities in cases of doubt. The burden of proof lies with them and not with the Jobcenter, the court ruled in the case of a Nigerian couple who were registered in Bremen (Case file no: L 13 AS 395/21).

The Jobcenter provides support to people who live in Germany and do not have enough money to care for themselves and their families. It also helps people who have never worked in Germany, those who have been unemployed for more than a year, and individuals who earn little despite working.

The couple had reportedly been receiving basic security benefits from the Jobcenter since 2014. The federal police randomly checked them when they entered the country at Bremen Airport in 2018, and the stamps in their passports indicated that they had been living abroad for several years. The Jobcenter then stopped the benefits and demanded a refund of the benefits they had been paid. The couple had stayed outside the area from which they should have been available for integration into work without authorisation, the Jobcenter said.

The couple took legal action against the decision of the Jobcenter. They named witnesses to prove that they had been staying in Germany and demanded counter-evidence from the Jobcenter, without success. The court ruled that the couple would have to pay back a total of around 33,000 euros, which they had received in benefits.

The court found that there was no reliable proof of the couple’s residence in Germany in the period under consideration. The flat in Bremen paid for by the Jobcenter had not been occupied and there had been numerous failures of the couple to register their presence on invitation.

The court found that the man had an employee ID card from a Nigerian transport company as well as a tax card, and his passport had been subsequently manipulated. Moreover, the woman had a licence to practise as a lawyer in Nigeria, the court added. The couple’s claim of having been in Germany during the disputed period was also not credible because all their children went to school in Nigeria.

Recipients of basic income support must prove their residence in Germany in order to claim benefits, according to the regulations of the Jobcenter. The aim of this regulation is to ensure that only those who have to cover their living expenses in Germany on a permanent basis benefit from basic income support. If someone wishes to travel abroad for a longer period of time, he or she must prove in advance that he or she will return home in order to claim benefits again.

According to Section 41a (Temporary stay abroad) of the Social Code (SGB) Twelfth Book (XII), “Beneficiaries [of basic social security benefits] who stay abroad for more than four weeks without interruption will not receive any benefits after the end of the fourth week until their proven return home.”

Sola Jolaoso

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