The Department of Social Protection in Ireland has been accused of actively promoting emigration after an unemployed 60-year-old received details of a job opportunity in Malta worth €250 a week.

The Irish Times under a picture of the old Maltese orange buses, said a letter from the department to the unnamed recipient outlined the job specification as well as offering the carrot of a “typically Mediterranean” climate.

The work, it said, entailed driving passenger transport vehicles on routes around Malta.

“While Maltese salary rates are lower than those in Ireland, Maltese workers pay among the lowest taxes in [the] EU and annual living costs are substantially lower,” the department's letter read.

Although the department defended the letter, insisting it kept social welfare recipients informed of all job opportunities, Sinn Féin dismissed it as an “outrageous” move and questioned whether it was policy to actively encourage emigration.

“Even the promise of a tan in the ‘typically Mediterranean’ climate could not make this job a viable option for this man,” Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty said when contacted by the letter’s recipient.

“I find it outrageous that a Government department would ask a 60-year-old man with a mortgage to apply for a job in Malta that pays lower than the minimum wage here,” he said.

“If the man were to get the job he would have obvious extra costs such as rent and travel while trying to pay his mortgage at home.”

Deputy Doherty called on Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton to clarify whether emigration was now policy and asked how many other Irish people had been encouraged to respond to the Maltese vacancy, of which 200 exist.

Asked for a response, the department stated that the European Employment Service (Eures) is a Europe-wide initiative in existence since 1993 to assist jobseekers take up employment in other EU countries.

“It is a network of all the public employment services in the European Union and the European Economic Area,” the statement said, adding the service “is extremely popular with jobseekers throughout Europe”.

It said the department informs jobseekers in Ireland of such job opportunities in the European labour market which may be of interest to them.

“Any such employment opportunities which the Department of Social Protection brings to the attention of jobseekers are completely voluntary and people who do not avail of them will not lose their social welfare entitlements here,” it went on.

“It is an opportunity for Irish jobseekers to seek work in other EU countries in the wider European market and equally, it provides jobseekers abroad with an opportunity to find work with companies based here in Ireland where such vacancies cannot be filled by jobseekers in Ireland.”

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