Arthur Martin and Steve Doughty, Daily Mail (London), February 24, 2010
Standing proudly with her arm draped over her 36in television, this is the Somali woman who must be given a council house even though she has no right to live in Britain.
Nimco Hassan Ibrahim–who lives with her four children on benefit handouts–was granted the right to the home by EU judges yesterday because she was once married to a Danish citizen who briefly worked in this country.
The landmark judgment means the 34-year-old migrant and her children will soon be packing up their impressive collection of furniture and electrical equipment when they are given a new house.
Although Miss Ibrahim claims her income support payments were suspended during the legal action, she has somehow bought a Playstation 3 games console, computer and a high-quality speaker system.
Equally impressive is the enormous sofa from which she watches TV each night. Lying on the floor in her lounge are some of the latest film releases–including a pirate DVD copy of the sci-fi movie Avatar.
And although she lives in a temporary accommodation in Harrow, Middlesex–funded by the local council–she has managed to install a high-speed internet connection.
Speaking to the Daily Mail last night, Mrs Ibrahim said: ‘I deserve to be given a proper house. This one is too small for all of us.
‘I don’t think it’s fair that the council has put us up in temporary accommodation. It’s not right that they have hounded us for four years. All these threats of eviction have made me feel very ill.
‘The law says that I can get a better house so I’m looking forward to a better life.
‘I have suffered psychological problems because of all this.
‘To be honest, I was expecting the worst from the court and I’m relieved it has ended. Now I can enjoy my life.’
Mrs Ibrahim does not work and spends her day looking after her children Abdirahman, 12, Abdifatah, 10, Deka, eight, and Mustapha, four. She refused to reveal how she could afford her electrical goods and furniture.
The landmark EU judgment opens the door for hundreds of thousands of unemployed foreigners to claim both state benefits and council or housing association homes.
In particular, it means migrant families from Poland and other Eastern European countries will for the first time have a right to council housing and state benefits even if they have worked for only a brief period in Britain.
It comes at a time of heavy demand for council housing from hard-pressed British families–and as ministers have been promising families in disaffected Labour heartlands that local people will have first call on council homes.
The judges at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg said Mrs Ibrahim must be given a home because ‘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.’
Mrs Ibrahim fled war-torn Somalia to Ethiopia with her family when she was 15. She married Mohamed Yusuf in Ethiopia before the pair moved to Denmark where he holds citizenship.
The pair came to Britain seven years ago. After eight months working as a bus driver, Mr Yusuf began living on benefits. When they were stopped in March 2004, he left the country.
Mr Yusuf’s departure ended Mrs Ibrahim’s right to stay in the UK and her right to receive benefits, but six years later, she lives on £1,000 a month through child tax credits, child benefits and child disability allowance.
Her accommodation is paid for and she also uses the NHS, even though she is not entitled to free medical care and has no insurance cover.
Her three-year legal battle was funded by the charity Shelter.
The UK Border Agency said it was ‘disappointed’, while Harrow council–which lost the case and has to give a home to Mrs Ibrahim–said European judges were determining British immigration policy.
Housing chief Barry Macleod-Cullinane 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.
‘This judgment would seem to make the EU policy of free movement impossible unless one greets new migrants at Heathrow with sizeable welfare handouts.’