22nd September 2022, 20:21
Some students who are weeks into their university courses have still not received their Government grant payment for this term, according to Together Gibraltar.
The Party claims family members allege that law enforcement agents have been raiding their homes in an attempt to find evidence that they have lied about their residence status.
For its part, the Government says these checks have been established since the time of the AACR Government.
In points out that in respect of the grant of mandatory scholarships, the Department of Education has this year identified almost fifty cases where eligibility for scholarships has been questioned because residence is in doubt.
Together Gibraltar says this 'Gestapo-like nonsense' is unacceptable, intrusive and pointless given that it is almost impossible to prove, particularly not with what the party terms these 'primitive, ill-judged means'.
TG accuses the Government of descending to fiendish tactics to try to stop a financial haemorrhage that is impossible to contain. It claims the system is reaching breaking point and says it's breaking people's lives in the process.
In its reply, the Government says that before the Borders and Coastguard Agency carried out their functions in checking residence and eligibility for benefits in Gibraltar this was done by Police immigration officers .
It adds the BCA carries out the house checks in question in order to determine eligibility of individuals for scholarships but claims no ‘raids’ are carried out, as alleged by Together Gibraltar.
According to the Government there's no political influence or interference in play at all in this annual exercise, which has nothing to do with the elected Government and nothing to do with the state of the public finances, but everything to do with determining eligibility in cases where residence is unclear.
It says it fully supports the work of the Department of Education and the Borders and Coastguard Agency whose actions, it says, are proportionate and in-keeping with the mechanisms established for well over forty years to establish actual residence in Gibraltar and therefore eligibility for scholarships.
Meanwhile, the Borders and Coastguard Agency (BCA) says it strongly condemns the operational practice of their Officers is being compared to that of an institution used to perpetrate war crimes.
The Agency’s CEO Aaron Chipol says the BCA does not carry out ‘raids’ on individual’s properties but rather entry is gained to a residence after receiving authority from the home-owner.
This is an essential function to ensure that requirements are met. He says his Officers have his complete support and that it is unjust to liken their efforts to those of a criminal regime.
However, Together Gibraltar insists searches have been clearly instigated by the Ministry, and are performed professionally but begrudgingly by BCA officers who feel like they are being pushed beyond their call of duty.
It says these officers will have to be knocking on doors of members of the community, questioning their integrity and inspecting the most personal and intimate sphere of their lives - their homes.
It also questions the timing to implement this policy, just weeks into some university courses.
The party says the Borders and Coastguards hierarchy have been pressured to defend a policy which they know is highly unpopular amongst their rank and file.
It says the Agency have been used as instruments of political spin.