Three of London’s largest homelessness charities (St. Mungo’s, Thames Reach and Change, Grow, Live – formerly known as Crime Reduction Initiative) are collaborating with the Home Office to have EU rough sleepers detained without charge and removed to their country of origin purely on the basis that they are rough sleeping.
Since November 2015 the Home Office has considered rough sleeping an “abuse’’ (or, more recently, a ‘‘misuse’’) of EU Treaty right to freedom of movement. This change of policy has effectively criminalised EU nationals who are sleeping rough, making them liable to be served with removal papers or taken to detention centres and deported.
Why this is wrong
Local authority-commissioned street outreach teams from St. Mungo’s, Thames Reach and Change, Grow, Live patrol alongside Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) teams and share the locations of European nationals sleeping rough, circumventing the requirement that clients consent to their personal information being shared. In some cases, they ‘refer’ individuals to the Home Office without their consent. The involvement of local councils and homelessness charities in immigration raids on rough sleepers is symptomatic of the extension of border controls into all aspects of civil society in the UK.
The change in the Home Office’s guidance means that even someone with a job or permanent resident status can be detained without charge and removed to their country of origin. Many of those affected by this divisive new policy have lived in the UK for years, usually working and paying tax. They end up on the streets due to harsh welfare rules that limit their entitlement to benefits. Some rough sleepers may also have substance use or mental health issues.
Apart from believing that homelessness is not a crime, we believe that the Home Office is targeting some of the most vulnerable people in our society—people who should be supported, not criminalised.
We call upon St. Mungo’s Broadway, Thames Reach and Change, Grow, Live to immediately:
Stop participating in enforcement actions that involve the detention and removal of EU nationals rough sleeping;
Advocate on behalf of rough sleepers and against the government’s attack on EU nationals;
Provide rights-based advice for EU nationals sleeping rough, referring out to legal agencies where necessary, e.g. complex welfare benefits or immigration cases;
- Begin investigations to ensure the welfare of those currently in detention and all those returned.