Somali mother can claim thousands in UK benefits because her children attend British schools, EU judges rule
By Daily Mail Reporter
A Somali mother-of-four is entitled to claim about £2,500 in benefits because two of her children are attending UK schools, EU judges ruled today.
Nimco Hassan Ibrahim was denied housing assistance because she and her estranged husband - a Danish national - failed to qualify for residency rights.
She appealed the decision by Harrow Council in north-west London, claiming that as her children's 'primary carer' she should be allowed to stay on in Britain and qualify for state handouts.
Today the European Court of Justice directed the Britain's Appeal Court to find in her favour.
Enlarge European Court of Justice
Ruling: The European Court of Justice has said Nimco Hassan Ibrahim is entitled to benefits in the UK as she is the primary carer of the child of a migrant worker
It said that parents of children in school have the right of residence even where they cannot support themselves.
The ruling paves the way for Ms Ibrahim to claim thousands of pounds in rent, income support and council tax benefit each month.
Cllr Barry Macleod-Cullinane, Harrow Council's portfolio holder for adults and housing, said: 'We are very concerned with this outcome, as it appears to establish a major new legal precedent over benefit claims.
'Harrow Council is studying the full implications of the ruling but 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.
'This judgment would seem to make this policy of free movement impossible unless one greets new migrants at Heathrow with sizeable welfare handouts.'
Ms Ibrahim arrived in the UK in 2003 to join her husband, named in court as Mr Yusuf.
As a Danish national, he counted as a 'migrant worker' from another EU country, with UK residency rights. This also applied to his wife.
The couple have four children of Danish nationality, aged from one to nine.
Harrow Council said it would study the ECJ judgment
The three eldest arrived in the United Kingdom with their mother and the fourth was born in the United Kingdom.
The two eldest have attended State schools since their arrival.
After working in the UK for five months, Mr Yusuf claimed incapacity benefit, and left the country after being declared fit for work in March 2004.
He then 'ceased to satisfy the conditions for lawful residence' in the UK, said the judgment.
Ms Ibrahim remained in the UK, separated from her husband, and, said the court, 'was never self-sufficient, and depends entirely on social assistance'.
'She does not have comprehensive sickness insurance cover and relies on the National Health Service,' the judgment added.
Her application for housing assistance for herself and her children was rejected by the London Borough of Harrow on the ground that only people with a right of residence under EU law could apply.
At that time neither she nor her husband were considered resident in the UK.
Today's judgment said: 'A parent caring for the child of a migrant worker who is in education in the host Member State has a right of residence in that State.
'That right is not conditional on the parent having sufficient resources not to become a burden on the social assistance system.'
EU rules say that members of the family of a migrant worker who is a national of one EU country and employed in another have residency rights with that worker, whatever their nationality - a right that continues even if the migrant worker no longer lives or works there.
The same judges also backed the case of Portuguese Maria Teixeira, divorced from her Portuguese husband, who was turned down for housing assistance on the grounds that she had no right of UK residence because she was not working and was not therefore self-sufficient.
She argued that she had residency rights because her daughter - the child of an EU national who had moved from one EU country to another - was continuing education in the UK.
The EU judges said the right of residence of the 'primary carer' parent normally ends when the child reaches 18, 'unless the child continues to need the presence and care of that parent in order to be able to pursue and complete his or her education'.
It was up to the national court to assess whether that was actually the case.