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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 May, 2004, 02:58 GMT 03:58 UK
Court fight over EU asylum change
EU flags
Asylum seekers from new EU countries no longer get support
The government is being challenged in the courts over its decision to end state support for asylum seekers from the 10 EU accession countries.

About 2,500 asylum seekers who were already in the UK lost the right to claim benefits following their change of status to EU citizens on 1 May.

A test case will argue that enforcing the rules would breach the asylum seekers' human rights.

Asylum seekers who have lost benefits are now able to work legally in the UK.

The case, which will be considered by Mr Justice Collins at the High Court on Tuesday, concerns a Roma asylum seeker from Slovakia who has lived in the UK for six years.

I don't know anybody who is not looking for work
Josef Cina

The man, identified only as H, has a wife and three children. Lawyers claim the family was only given three-and-a-half weeks notice that they would lose their state support and accommodation.

They claim H, who is a trained bricklayer, could not register for work in time - and that enforcing the new rules would breach the human rights of former asylum seekers because they could be left homeless and destitute.

Case reviews

Campaigners had warned the new rules would leave hundreds homeless.

However, the Home Office has said former asylum seekers will not lose their right to benefits and housing immediately.

The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) has instructed accommodation providers not to evict anyone until an "urgent case-by-case" review has taken place.

Maeve Sherlock, the head of the Refugee Council, said she was delighted by the government's decision to review cases rather than automatically withdraw benefits.

The 10 new countries to join the EU are Malta, Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"Today's test case relates to existing asylum seekers from the 10 new European Union countries"

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