Judges Thwart Blunkett Purge of Asylum Claims; Fresh Court Setback for Home Secretary's Bid to Stem Bogus Refugees
Butler, Jo, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: JO BUTLER
DAVID Blunkett suffered another humiliating blow at the hands of the judiciary yesterday as his asylum policy was ripped apart in the Court of Appeal.
The judges warned that new rules stripping benefits from asylum seekers who delayed lodging their claims have been applied too harshly.
They refused to overturn an earlier High Court ruling in favour of six asylum seekers left destitute by the draconian policy and ordered the Home Secretary to overhaul it.
The judgment is a major setback for Mr Blunkett, who wants to halve the number of asylum seekers coming to the UK by introducing tough measures to deter bogus claims. A record 111,000 asylum seekers entered last year.
Last month Mr Justice Collins, in the High Court, ruled that the controversial policy to deny benefits to late claimants was a breach of human rights because it risked leaving them destitute.
That triggered a furious response from Mr Blunkett who declared he was 'fed up' with judges overturning laws passed by Parliament and vowed to challenge the ruling.
The regulations, introduced in January, made it compulsory for asylum seekers to lodge claims 'as soon as practicable' after entering the UK if they wanted free housing and state support.
The aim is to stop the huge numbers of claims - up to 60 per cent - from people who have waited weeks or even months before coming forward, many waiting until their visas run out or they are caught living here illegally, according to Ministers.
But Court of Appeal judges Lord Phillips, the Master of the Rolls, and Lords Justice Sedley and Clarke ruled the procedure to work out whether someone had just arrived or was trying to play the system 'was not fair or operated fairly' and needed to be 'radically overhauled'.
It was not fair for claimants simply to fill out questionnaires.
Instead, they should be interviewed by trained interrogators to establish why they had not claimed on arrival - and whether they were telling the truth.
Applicants refused support should also have the chance to challenge the decision.
On these grounds the judges dismissed Mr Blunkett's appeal.
But they did accept that if the proper checks were made, the Home Secretary was entitled to withdraw benefits from those who had delayed making claims with no good reason. …