Today Corporate Watch published a report entitled ‘The Round-Up: rough sleeper immigration raids and charity collaboration’, which exposes the active collaboration of London’s Mayor, local councils and homelessness charities delivering street outreach services – St Mungo’s, Thames Reach and Change, Grow, Live (CGL).
Homeless people on the streets of London have become prime targets for immigration raids, in which some of the city’s most vulnerable people are detained and deported. Several nights a week, immigration patrols are out targeting rough sleepers in London.
Whilst arrests are carried out by Home Office “Immigration Compliance and Enforcement” (ICE) teams, they rely on joint patrols and other intelligence provided by street outreach services. They may also see their role increase in deciding whether or not it is ‘proportional’ to remove people, effectively giving them the power to decide who is worthy of remaining in the UK and who can be disposed of.
This report shows how:
- Outreach teams from charities St Mungo’s, Thames Reach, and CGL conduct regular joint “visits” with Immigration Enforcement officers, as often as fortnightly in central boroughs. Freedom of Information (FOI) responses show 141 such patrols organised by the GLA and 12 London boroughs last year. This figure does not include Westminster or the City of London, the biggest concentration of London homelessness, where patrols are likely to be even more frequent.
- 127 people were deported as a result of a a two-month pilot operation in Westminster alone.
- “Joint visits” in eight of these boroughs led to another 133 rough sleepers being detained
- Charity outreach teams routinely pass on locations of non-UK rough sleepers to ICE through the London-wide CHAIN database and through local data co-operation agreements. This intelligence may lead to many more arrests.
- As opposed to workplace raids which largely hit South Asian migrants, EU and other European Economic Area (EEA) nationals are the main targets here, as they made up nearly half of London rough sleepers last year. Migrants from Romania, Poland, and other East European countries are particularly affected.
- Under new Home Office rules introduced in May 2016, European rough sleepers can be arrested for deportation on their first night sleeping rough, as this is considered a “misuse” of their European “Treaty rights”. Outreach workers may be called on to guide Immigration Officers in deciding whether detention is “proportional”.
- Tough policy on migrant rough sleepers was “intensely lobbied” for by Westminster Council, and actively pushed by the GLA and other members of the “Mayor’s Rough Sleeping Group”, including senior managers from St Mungo’s, Thames Reach and other charities.
- The rough sleeper deportation system is at the cutting edge of Theresa May’s “hostile environment” approach rolling out across schools, hospitals, housing, and other areas of everyday life. This approach relies on turning teachers, doctors and nurses, charity workers, and other citizens into Home Office informers.
- The “hostile environment” is based on collaboration. It can be broken by solidarity and resistance. Examples of refusal by some homelessness workers and campaigners may start to show the way.
Can you help?
We are continuing to collect information and evidence about rough sleeper patrols.
If you are a homelessness worker, rough sleeper, or have any information that you’d like to share with Corporate Watch, email us at contact[at]corporatewatch.org or call 020 7426 0005. We will respect your confidentiality.
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