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A church has won a case to evict a family of asylum seekers who have lived rent-free in one of its properties for more than two years.
The family, originally from Nigeria, including three children, aged eight, nine and eleven, paid rent for ten years from 2006 to live in the four-bedroom caretaker’s house adjoining the All Nations Church in Hemlington, near Middlesbrough.
However, when the church became aware of their immigration status two years ago, the church asked the family to leave the property. Home Office rules prevent the family from paying rent to the church due to their status as asylum seekers.
Some members of the church have criticised the church’s decision.
One member told Teesside Live she is "saddened and sickened" by the church "turning their back".
However, the church’s pastor Ian Rowland insisted the church had done all it could do to support the family.
"We have bent over backwards to help them and this is the last resort,” he told Teeside Live.
The married couple moved to the UK with their children on a student visa, and achieved university degrees and worked in professional jobs.
When Middlesbrough Council contacted the church about council tax, they found out for the first time that the family were actually seeking asylum.
As a result, the church was legally obliged to stop charging the family for rent or any utilities."
All Nations began legal proceedings to evict the family when the church and family failed to reach a compromise.
An unnamed member of the family said while they packed their bags: "I ask what wrong did we do?
“But we won't give up. We know that God will deliver."
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