London, Feb. 19 (Reuters): The British government’s get-tough policy on asylum suffered a setback on Wednesday after a court ruled in favour of six asylum seekers challenging “inhumane” laws which stopped them receiving state support.
London’s High Court allowed the challenge to the newly introduced Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 which requires asylum seekers to register for asylum as soon as possible in order to qualify for state hand-outs.
It aims to cut asylum numbers by preventing claims from immigrants already in Britain, either illegally or on a short-term work permit, who only apply when they are discovered.
The government said it would appeal against the judgment.
Asylum has become an acute political issue in Britain, enflamed in recent weeks after it became known that suspects in several terror-linked criminal cases had applied for asylum.
Prime Minister Tony Blair said earlier this month he wanted to halve the number of asylum seekers coming to Britain.
High Court judge Justice Collins ruled that the immigration act breached the human rights of the asylum seekers who brought the challenge, all of whom had been refused state support. When the case was heard last week, a lawyer for five of the asylum seekers said the way they were being treated was “inhumane”.
The Act’s rules mean in practice that an asylum application has to be made at the port of entry with the exception of certain categories such as pregnant women or children under 18.
The court was told that the outcome could be that asylum-seekers could end up sleeping rough on the streets. “The worry of not knowing how to survive from one day to the next or where he is going to sleep is likely to produce serious damage to a person’s mental well-being and there is evidence before me which supports that proposition,” the judge said.