Refugees in Commons protest

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Indy Politics
John McCarthy, the former Middle East hostage, yesterday joined the 13-year-old Syous Hussain (above) and other refugees, in a demonstration outside the House of Commons against the Government's Immigration and Asylum Bill. the protest came as ministers' plans to cut benefits for asylum seekers early in the New Year received another setback, writes Nicholas Timmins.

The High Court gave two London boroughs, Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham, leave for a judicial review of the planned benefit changes, threatening a further delay to benefit cuts which were originally planned to take effect on 8 January.

Ministers have promised that they will not now be implemented before the Commons has a chance to debate them in the New Year, but yesterday's decision means they will be challenged in the courts unless the Government postpones the package until late next year.

The local authorities argue that the Government is behaving unreasonably in removing the right to housing benefit for many asylum seekers while still leaving local authorities with a duty to house them under homelessness legislation. The Asylum Bill will remove that, but it is unlikely to become law before July at the earliest.

Photograph: Kalpesh Lathigra