A SOMALI woman must be given a council house in Harrow despite having no means to support herself and her four children.
In a landmark judgment by the European Union Courts of Justice, Nimco Hassan Ibrahim was given the right to UK benefits despite being acknowledged as a “burden on the social assistance system”.
The mother, whose children are in state education in this country, came to the UK to join her Danish husband, named in court as Mr Yusuf, in February 2003.
Mr Yusuf briefly worked in Britain from October 2002 to May 2003, but then claimed incapacity benefit until March 2004 before leaving the country and splitting with Ms Nimco.
The court heard yesterday that Ms Ibrahim was “never self-sufficient, and depends entirely on social assistance”, and added she relies on the NHS as she has no health insurance.
When her 2007 application to Harrow Council for housing benefits was turned down, as neither her or her ex-husband had a right of residence under European Union law, she appealed through the UK courts.
The judgment by the EU courts states that Ms Ibrahim's right to stay in the UK does not depend on her having the means to support herself and her children, entitling her to a council house as the “carer of a child of a migrant worker”.
Councillor Barry Macleod-Cullinane, who is in charge of adults and housing at Harrow Council, slammed the judgment, saying it opened the floodgates for similar benefits claims.
He said: “We are very concerned with this outcome, as it appears to establish a major new legal precedent over benefit claims.
“It could well prove to be a floodgates judgment in that people who have not yet contributed to this country or who do not have the means to sustain themselves can now seek immediate help from state welfare services.
“Rather than having a proper open and public debate about what our immigration policy should be, with that policy voted upon by our MPs in Parliament, we are now seeing a European Court determining British immigration policy."
He added the council is continuing to study the full implication of the ruling.
Ms Ibrahim will now be moved from her temporary accomodation in Harrow to a council house for her and her children, who are aged between four and 12.
The UK Border Agency said it was “disappointed” with the judgment and will be studying it closely to work out the wider implications for UK benefits claims.
It may pave the way for thousands of applications for council housing from migrant workers, even if they have only been employed in this country for a short period.