MORE than 9,000 people were refused social welfare payments last year after it was deemed they were not habitually resident in Ireland.

Thousands of apparently bogus claims had been filed with the Department of Social and Family Affairs, according to figures, which are showing a vast increase in the number of failed applications.

According to the department, 9,200 people sought welfare last year who were subsequently deemed not to be permanently resident in the country.

It was a near 70% rise on 2008 when 5,496 claims were rejected and an enormous rise on the previous four years, where annual claims numbered around 3,200.

Sources said a significant number of the claims had come from residents of Eastern Europe, primarily Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania.

A source said: "In some cases, they were working here genuinely, lost their job and simply could not prove they had been in Ireland long enough to claim welfare.

"In other cases, it was entirely bogus and it was clear that they or their partner were no longer resident in the state but planned to try and claim the dole or child benefit."

It was not just non-nationals who were refused access to welfare. A total of 738 Irish people, many of them returned immigrants, were told they were not yet eligible for the dole or other allowances.

Many of them had not been living in Ireland for a sufficient period of time or were suspected of being normally resident elsewhere, particularly in Britain.