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COUNCIL ACTED TO PROTECT ASYLUM-SEEKER'S HOME AND FAMILY LIFE

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An asylum seeker who claimed lack of suitable housing hastened her ailing mother's death has failed in a ground-bre...
An asylum seeker who claimed lack of suitable housing hastened her ailing mother's death has failed in a ground-breaking damages claim.

Ala Anufrijeva claimed her elderly mother lay dying from cancer on a bed infested with ants because Southwark LBC failed to find a home suitable for the old lady who had serious mobility problems.

On 24 September last year, she and her husband Vladimiras won a high court order compelling the London borough to rehouse them appropriately - but her mother Matriona Kuzjeva died in the same month.

The Lithuanian couple, who have three children, went on to sue the council for five-figure damages, claiming Mrs Kuzjeva's decline was accelerated by the council's violation of her basic human right to respect for their home and family life.

Mrs Anufrijeva, who now lives with her husband and three children at Elephant and Castle in London, told the court how her mother was 'a prisoner on the upper floor' of an insect-infested slum block in Peckham.

'The lack of suitable housing accommodation for my mother, led to depression and inactivity which I believe hastened her physical decline,' she told the court.

But Mr justice Newman, sitting at London's high court, today rejected claims that the council had breached the Human Rights Convention and dashed the family's hopes of recompense.

'In my judgement the central plank of the claim was baseless. From the outset the local authority has provided a home and thereafter endeavoured to meet the wishes of the family.

'Mrs Kuzjeva was elderly, and she was in poor health.

'I have no doubt that the stairs had an impact on the ability of the family to enjoy life together, but the obligation of the local authority under the Convention did not extend to creating a set of circumstances in which all major impediments to the full enjoyment of family life are removed.

'I have no doubt that the sense of isolation, which Mrs Kuzjeva is likely to have felt as a result of fleeing to a country where she knew no one, and could not speak the language, was increased by the impediment of a steep flight of stairs.

'But all the evidence shows that the council possessed itself of the relevant information, and having done so acted so as to ameliorate the immediate difficulties presented by the property, and saw the need for alternative accommodation to be provided, if the family's needs were to be more suitably to be met.

'In my judgment, it acted so as to respect the claimant's family and private life. The claim therefore fails.'

STRAND NEWS SERVICE

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