Ban on benefits and housing for asylum-seekers ruled illegal

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The Independent Online

New rules banning some asylum-seekers from housing and other benefits were ruled illegal and in breach of human rights by the Court of Appeal yesterday. The ruling is a major setback for the Home Secretary David Blunkett's attempts to reduce the number of asylum claims.

New rules banning some asylum-seekers from housing and other benefits were ruled illegal and in breach of human rights by the Court of Appeal yesterday. The ruling is a major setback for the Home Secretary David Blunkett's attempts to reduce the number of asylum claims.

Under section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act, people must claim asylum within three days of arriving in the UK to qualify for benefits and housing. The restrictions started last December, but refugee groups say that has left thousands of genuine asylum-seekers destitute.

Yesterday the Court of Appeal in London upheld an earlier ruling that the law is in breach of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees shelter as a "basic amenity", and states that no one should be subjected to "inhuman or degrading treatment". It means a vital element of government policy on asylum is illegal, and will force the Home Office to provide accommodation for all people who make claims.

The case was brought by three asylum-seekers, Wayoka Limbuela, Binyam Tefera Tesema and Yusif Adam. They had their applications refused and were denied benefits and housing after falling out of the three-day limit for claiming asylum.

Mr Adam had to sleep in a car park for a monthafter his application was refused, and Mr Limbeula spent two nights without food or shelter outside a police station until "interim relief" was provided. Adam Sampson, director of the homeless charity Shelter, said: "This ruling is a victory for vulnerable people who are in desperate need."

But the Home Office is to seek leave to appeal to the House of Lords. A spokesman said: "We are disappointed the appeals have been dismissed. The essential point of section 55 is that we are not prepared to use taxpayers' money on supporting people who make speculative asylum claims or who have an alternative source of support."

He said the clampdown had led to a halving of asylum claims since autumn 2002.