A family of asylum seekers will find out on today whether they are to be evicted from their home in Bury, Greater Manchester. The Khanali family also face losing their benefits and having their two children taken into care unless they leave the country.
Vahid and Zoreh Khanali, who are Iranian Christians, came to Britain two years ago and claimed asylum. The couple, who have two daughters aged six and seven months, fled their home after a violent encounter with the security police.
The family’s situation highlights the potential traumas facing asylum seeking families if the new policy, which is being piloted in their area, gets the go ahead nationwide. This new policy falls under Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004, removes support from asylum seeking families whose applications have been refused and who have no further right of appeal. They are then forced to leave their NASS accommodation and are not entitled to be supported by their local authority. However, the local authority can take their children into care.
The pilot is taking place in Greater Manchester, Leeds and London, and began in April 2005. Bury Council is one of 11 local authorities, which are responsible for enforcing the evictions, asking the Home Office to urgently review the policy. In a letter, they said it could cause distress and suffering to children. The government claims the measure encourages asylum seekers to return home. Section 9 policy goes against social services child-centred policy aimed at putting the child’s needs first and not separating them from families unless they are at risk.
Last week the Khanali family believed they had been spared after a judge ruled that the Home Office could not make them destitute. However, the Home Office re-issued the eviction order, giving them until August 26 to leave their home. The Khanalis’ benefits will be stopped on that date and they are due to be forced out of their home. If they cannot provide for their children without support, the council would be obliged to take the two girls into care until the family are forced to go back to their homeland.