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EDITIONS
Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Council wins right to deport families
Somali children in classroom
The families are of Somali origin
A decision to send destitute Dutch women and children of Somali origin back to the Netherlands from the UK has been backed by the High Court.

Birmingham City Council was cleared of claims that it acted irrationally and unfairly and was guilty of operating a policy involving race discrimination.

In a case watched closely by other councils with similar problems, Mr Justice Moses said the authority was entitled to take into account the "enormous financial burden" of caring for the families.

The judge dismissed test cases brought by three single mothers, with a total of 13 children, who claimed they were forced to leave their Dutch homes in 2001 because of domestic violence.

He said the council was entitled to decide that their needs could best be met back in the Netherlands.

Return flight

Birmingham City Council said that by July of last year it had received 2,000 applications for assistance from more than 265 families in the Smallheath and Sparkbrook area.


There was no obligation on the council to provide homes in the first place

Mr Justice Moses
Most of the families were Dutch citizens and 85% of them were of Somali ethnic origin.

In 2000/2001, dealing with them had cost the council 2.6 million, with expenditure for the current financial year likely to reach 1.8m.

In July 2001 it adopted the policy of stating the rights of the families protected by the Children Act could best be met by funding their return to the Netherlands.

If the offer of a return flight was turned down, the council said it would house the children as a last resort.

Dismissing a challenge by the mothers, Mr Justice Moses said: "There was no obligation on the council to provide homes in the first place, and no statutory obligation can arise because the mothers have chosen not to avail themselves of funding to return to the place where a home can be provided."

'Individual need'

He said there had been no breach of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the council had properly balanced the needs of the women and their children against its limited resources with "sympathy and attention".

The judge refused the women permission to appeal against his ruling, but their lawyers can still apply directly to the Court of Appeal.

All three women have now lived in Birmingham long enough to have the legal right to claim income support and other benefits and are no longer directly affected by Thursday's ruling.

But social services manager Ken Wynne said it was still of importance to Birmingham and other local councils.

He said: "It will mean that we shall continue to consider cases on the basis of individual need, but we can manage them in a way which has regard to our resources."


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30 May 02 | UK Politics
30 May 02 | UK Politics
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