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Three-year freeze on asylum seeker benefits to be reviewed

The Home Secretary has been asked to review the amount of money given to asylum seekers as benefits after the High Court ruled that the decision to freeze benefits for three years was based on insufficient evidence, reports The Independent.

The Home Secretary has kept the amount of money offered to asylum seekers in benefits at the same level for three years, representing a real-term cut in benefits after taking into account the rising cost of living.

This led to the charity Refugee Action mounting a judicial review of the situation, which this week culminated in the High Court demanding that the decision be revisited.

At present asylum seekers receive £36.62 a week in benefits from the state, whilst they await a decision on whether their application for asylum is granted. Asylum seekers are prevented from working during this period, so the money represents the total amount they can spend.

Theresa May froze this amount back in 2011 for two years, and last year announced that the amount would remain frozen in 2013/14.

The judicial review in the High Court focused on the information that Theresa May's department used when making the decision to freeze the benefit payments.

The High Court ruled that the Home Secretary had misunderstood or misapplied the data available to her, and therefore ruled that the decision must be revisited.

"In my judgment, the information used by the Secretary of State to set the rate of asylum support was simply insufficient to reach a rational decision to freeze rates," said the judge, Mr Justice Popplewell.

The shadow immigration minister David Hanson said the Home Secretary now needed to reconsider her approach.

"Theresa May now needs to look at this ruling and reconsider her entire approach to decision-making in this area to make sure she is making effective and fair decisions."

Refugee Action has surveyed asylum seekers and found that more than half could not buy enough food to feed their families, 40% skipped meals, and 90% were unable to buy appropriate clothing.

The Government has said it will appeal the decision.