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Judge: Refugees in U.K. Not Owed Clothes

November 30, 2006

LONDON (AP) _ The British government is not required to provide warm clothing to thousands of immigrants and their children who remain in Britain while appealing failed asylum cases, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Immigration laws allow the government to provide accommodation and vouchers for food and toiletries, but not clothing, to refugees while they appeal, High Court Justice Michael Harrison ruled.

``As much as I would like to find (Home Secretary John Reid) has power ... to provide the claimant and her baby son with warm clothing for the winter, I am afraid I am unable to do so,″ Harrison said.

The case was brought on behalf of a 20-year-old Kenyan woman identified only as AW, who has an 11-month-old son, said her lawyer, Sue Willman.

``It is a scandal that pregnant or nursing mothers cannot get maternity clothes or baby things,″ Willman said. ``We call upon the government to change the law as a matter of urgency.″

Willman said her client fled Kenya in July 2002 fearing religiously motivated persecution. The government denied her claim for asylum and she is appealing.

The attorney said the government pays the woman, who is not permitted to work, to rent a room in a shared home while reviewing her asylum application and gives her $125 a week in grocery store vouchers.

Draft legislation that would allow the government more flexibility to meet the needs of failed asylum seekers is being considered by the Home Office, officials in the department said.

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