A FRENCH Muslim couple sparked fury yesterday by using a free legal service paid for by British taxpayers to challenge their country’s controversial burkha ban.
“We are in a mess because we allow EU law to supersede UK law, and the result is that your internal affairs are in trouble,” he said.
The unnamed husband and wife claim they were forced to move to Britain from France by the new law which prevents women wearing the veil in public.
They want £10,000 damages because the “unnecessary, disproportionate and unlawful” ban breaches their right to free movement across the European Union.
Now based in the West Midlands, they are trying to overturn the law at the European Court of in Strasbourg.
The couple are represented by lawyers from Britain’s Immigration Advisory Service which gets an annual £15million in taxpayers’ cash.
Robina Shah, a Birmingham-based solicitor, has instructed top immigration and public law barrister Ramby de Mello to fight their landmark case.
But last night, Ukip MEP Gerard Batten blamed the costly “mess” on European laws designed to over-ride domestic law.
“It’s a nonsense. It should be up to the French to sort out whether they want to ban the burkha in their country or not, and someone should challenge it from within.
“About 10 per cent of the population of France are Muslim. Why don’t they club together and pay for someone to challenge it.”
According to Ms Shah the couple have two daughters and want to remain anonymous in case they suffer “hostility”.
Documents lodged in Strasbourg say they “wish to reside and work in France” because they have family there.
But the French ban – which includes the full-length face-covering burkha , and the niqab, a face veil that leaves only eye openings – made it impossible.
They say that the husband, the main applicant, “expects and instructs” his wife to wear the burkha but risks prosecution if he crosses the Channel.
He does not force his wife to wear the niqab but “expects her to do so in public, in keeping with his religious and cultural expectation and his authority as her husband”.
Their legal papers say she “respects and follows” her husband’s instructions “out of her own free will” and wants to cover up “in keeping with her faith”.
When she wears the niqab, “she feels at inner peace with herself and her surroundings and is cocooned from the outer world”. At such times she can “concentrate on her innermost thoughts” and “manifest her religious and personal beliefs in public places”.
Ms Shah added: “The case clearly is of importance to my clients. As a result of the ban they have had to leave their country of nationality, as the ban restricts their freedom of choice, and that of their daughters.”
The Immigration Advisory Service bills itself as the UK’s “largest providing representation and advice in immigration and asylum law”.
Its lawyers mainly represents asylum seekers and other migrants who cannot afford to hire solicitors privately.
It receives approximately £15million – a hefty chunk of its funding – in taxpayers’ cash, through the Legal Services Commission which hands out legal aid.
But a Legal Services spokesman said that even if taxpayer-funded IAS lawyers were representing the couple, that service would not be paid for by legal aid.
He added that they only gave legal aid to cases involving British law and concerned with immigration.
Nobody from the IAS was available for comment.