Asylum seeker jailed for benefits swindle

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A mother-of-two has been jailed for eight months after a court heard she entered the UK illegally using a false name and then claimed thousands in benefits.

Naziyatabassum Shaikh had twice tried in Mumbai, India to get an official visa to visit the UK but had been turned down, Caroline Wigin prosecuting told Leeds Crown Court yesterday.

In April 2009, however, she succeeded in entering the country by using false identification in another name.

She then claimed benefits totalling more than £44,000 over the next three years in asylum seeker allowances for accommodation and to support her children.

The offences came to light when immigration officials visited her husband and her true name emerged.

When questioned she said she had been told to fill in the asylum support form in her false identity by the person who had facilitated her entry to the UK in that name.

She said she feared if she told the truth she would be returned to India and her children taken into care.

Shaikh, 32 of Ferriby Tower, 
Mabgate, Leeds, admitted obtaining leave to remain in the UK by deception and fraudulently claiming benefits.

Yunus Valli, representing her, told the judge the money received mainly went towards the housing of the family and for the day-to-day living for herself and her two young daughters.

“She came to the UK out of fear for herself and her family and accepts she pretended to be somebody else for a significant period of time,” Mr Valli said.

Jailing Shaikh, Judge Geoffrey Marson QC said it was sad to see someone like her in court.

“I accept that the money was to maintain your family and not to live a life of luxury and I am mindful you have the care of two young children but coming into the country on a false identity is a serious matter and the amount of money and period over which you committed that offence is also serious.”

He said her claim was fraudulent from the outset and persisted over a three-year period. “Notwithstanding everything which has been said on your behalf only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified,” the judge said.

He told her as an act of mercy he would make sentences on the two offences concurrent.