Blunkett defeated over benefits for refugees

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David Blunkett suffered an embarrassing defeat in court yesterday over his policy of denying food and board to asylum-seekers who apply late for benefits.

The Home Secretary pledged to challenge the High Court judgment that the human rights were breached of three refugees who were forced to beg and sleep rough after being refused benefits.

The Government banned benefits for people who fail to claim asylum "as soon as practicable" in January in a drive to halve the number of asylum applications by September.

But human rights and refugee groups have taken up the test case of a Somalian, Ethiopian and Malaysian who suffered under the ruling. Yesterday, Mr Justice Maurice Kay said their "inhuman and degrading" treatment was in contravention of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

He said it was not inevitable that anyone refused asylum support would be able to rely on Article 3 as some were "more resilient or resourceful than others". But he ruled that the "degrading" threshold had been reached in the cases of the three refugees, whose lawyers had described their treatment as "a mockery of human rights".

He gave Mr Blunkett permission to appeal against the ruling to the Court of Appeal.